by Sarah Cronin

Indiana passed a bill on Wednesday that authorizes police officers to shut down highway protesting “by any means necessary.” S.B. 285, as it is known, obliges a public official to dispatch all available officers within 15 minutes of discovering any assembly of 10 or more people who are obstructing vehicle traffic.

The bill then authorizes the responding officers to clear roads “by any means necessary.”

Critics are calling it the “Block Traffic and You Die” bill, an apt name for a bill that has co-opted the phrase “any means necessary,” used famously in speech delivered by Malcolm X during the Civil Rights movement, turning it into a threat against government dissent (with no apparent awareness of the irony).

S.B. 285 is among a collection of increasingly hostile ‘anti-obstruction’ laws that have been quietly submitted in states around the nation over the past few months. A report by The Intercept published Wednesday tracked five such anti-protest laws introduced by Republican lawmakers in different states, four of which are currently pending.

One of the most disturbing among them is House Bill N. 1203, a bill introduced earlier this month by North Dakota lawmaker Keith Kempenich in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests. The bill would exempt motorists who hit demonstrators with their cars from any liability in cases where the victims were “obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway.” This twisted take on protest criminalization comes short of condoning manslaughter as a viable means of crowd control.

Also this month, Minnesota State Representative Kathy Lohmer led the effort on submitting H.F. 322, a bill that would re-classify obstructing highway traffic from a misdemeanor to a “gross misdemeanor” and would authorize government units to sue protesters for “public safety response costs related to unlawful assemblies.”

The proposed legislation is strikingly reminiscent of Washington State Senator Eric Ericksen’s proposal to punish protesters as ‘economic terrorists,’ which Anti-Media first reported on in November.

All of the proposed laws share a common trait in that they were all adopted in response to a major protest event in that state. H.F. 322 was submitted shortly after a judge dismissed the riot charges against protesters who took to the St. Paul Interstate last July in a demonstration against the police shooting of Philando Castille. Ericksen’s “economic terrorism” bill announcement came just days after anti-fracking protesters blocked railroad tracks in Olympia, Washington. DAPL protests inspired both the Indiana and North Dakota bills.

These retroactive responses on behalf of Republican state lawmakers are also seen as preemptive strikes against the threat of increased protests during the Trump presidency.

As ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland expressed in an interview with The Intercept, these so-called ‘obstruction bills’ are but thinly disguised efforts to squash any government dissent.

A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: chilling protest,” Rowland said.

Growing tension between government officials and protesters is expected to come to a culmination on Inauguration Day in D.C., where there will already be many barriers in place to limit demonstrations.

First and foremost is the Federal Grounds and Buildings Improvement Act of 2011, known as H.R 347.

H.R.-347 is a revision of a 1971 federal trespassing law that made it a crime to “willfully and knowingly” remain in an area under Secret Security protection. H.R. 347 removes the word “willingly,” a legal technicality that effectively lowers the bar on the mental state required to be found guilty under the law.

As explained by the American Civil Liberties Union:

“Under the original language of the law, you had to act ‘willfully and knowingly’ when committing the crime. In short, you had to know your conduct was illegal. Under H.R. 347, you will simply need to act ‘knowingly,’ which here would mean that you know you’re in a restricted area, but not necessarily that you’re committing a crime.”

Under current federal law, protesting in proximity to an elected official under the protection of the Secret Service, which includes President Trump, is a crime punishable by fine and up to ten years in jail.

Protesting during Trump’s inauguration comes with additional complications as the National Park Service reserves a large portion of the inaugural parade route along Pennsylvania Ave and in Freedom Plaza for ticket sales under the exclusive discretion of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). This means the PIC can refuse to allow protesters along the route.

An activist group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (Answer) has been engaged in a legal battle with the National Park Service since 2005, arguing the privatization of the Inauguration is an attempt to “sanitize” the streets of dissent.

While the National Park Service has been controversially setting aside tickets for the PIC since 1980, the issue garnered more attention this year when it was discovered that the sidewalk in front of the Trump International Hotel, a significant site for protesters, would be a part of PIC’s ticket-only area.

Adding another level of bureaucracy, the Washington Post reported the hotel and plaza in front are actually under the control of Trump’s real estate agency, meaning protesters would have to literally ‘ask permission’ to remain in the space.

As the week comes to an end, it becomes apparent that dissent is being criminalized not only nationwide but on multiple fronts. Increased regulations are appearing that limit the public spaces that can be lawfully occupied in protest. Meanwhile, legislation is also being introduced to increase the negative consequences for newly unlawful protests. Should more states follow suit with Indiana, demonstrators will soon find themselves paradoxically protesting for their right to protest at all.

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    I disagree with the essential message of this article. I know it’s a very difficult issue however, I think if you protest along a street that’s fine; in the street, no. People have been trapped, harassed, pulled from their cars and beaten. Look at the mob doing property damage in DC and other places today. That’s what I believe we’re talking about. How do you, an honest citizen going about your business or simply trying to get to your home and a mob surrounds your car; banging on it, gesturing threateningly. I have seen this done repeatedly by those who support HRC when they caused awful problems at Trump rallies. I do not believe this law is on the slippery slope to tyranny. On the contrary, the mobs have been allowed to run wild in the streets; literally, and that is not conducive to a civil society.

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      Spot on.

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        AGREE, Protest is one thing but turn into riot and I feel the gov should start shooting once turn violent. Have snipers ready to take out garbage, no question asked

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          Should Walmart install snipers in their stores to shoot shoplifters, following your logic?

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            Walmart is a private business on their OWN property, any protestors on Walmart property MUST, MUST have permission to be on that property or can be FORCEFULLY REMOVED by law enforcement! A shoplifter is NOT involved in a violent act–it IS a criminal act but is NOT targeted at harming others physically. ANY school kid understands that–DIDya’ even go to school?

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              I guess I didn’t go to the same law school that you did, or else, I didn’t sleep through the module on private property law in public domains.

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                Even YOU have a ‘right’ to allow or disallow ANYBODY on your property unless they have a legal right to-that means a utility observing their right of way tolerance or law enforcement by warrant. The problem with these situations such as what happened in DC Friday, local officials are reluctant to act–leaving law enforcement taking the brunt of hostilities or someone unfortunate enough to be caught up in the violence without their intent. IT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED–violent attack should be MET WITH VIOLENT REACTION from law enforcement. IF the ‘bully’ isn’t met with resistance, the bully only becomes a larger problem. Once a law is broken, ‘protest’ becomes an unlawful act requiring police action. Remember, the POLICE are not there to protect YOU particularly–THEIR DUTY IS TO UPHOLD LAWS OF COMMUNITY/CITY/STATE who employed them.

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      With common sense we can enforce current laws…this can be done with
      common sense law enforcement, attorneys, and judges. (I know) I know
      what you are thinking….but we do not need more laws to bind us down we
      need to enforce existing laws with the ability to do the right and
      honorable thing.

      Could it be we have become so morally corrupted
      and mentally challenged we cannot govern ourselves unless there is a law
      for every conceivable action or reaction? If that’s the case….or
      freedom is gone….I repeat our freedom gone…the elites have achieved
      their goal…your are a number, a human resource, with a shelf life
      determined by our Overloads who will evaluate the worthiness of your
      existence terminating you at their pleasure.

      Welcome to tomorrows Godless world of Technocracy


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      You don’t need a law for this. It’s not the police or the government that lets the mobs run wild on the streets. It’s you.
      Hit a couple of these people going 65 or roll over them going 10 and there will never be another protest on the freeway. But everyone wants big daddy government to solve there problems for them.

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      Yep. Your right to……whatever, ends when you start violating the rights of others. Trespass, inpeding traffic, assault, etc. are not free speech.

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        As painful as this may be to our sense of liberty when we feel it is time to make a stand and speak out, you are right. We do of course already have laws in place to cover this starting with the Supreme Law of the Land. There is no right to interfere with the rights of others to perform the travel they need to get to work, feed their families…stay alive. I’m pretty sure most protesters would step aside for an ambulance to pass. How do they know someone else isn’t on a critical mission?

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      alice, I gave you an up-bump because I mostly agree with your post. we do need to understand the difference between protesting an rioting. the first is not only our right, but our duty. the latter is simply crime.
      there is a lot at play here. when a government acts badly, we have a legal right under the constitution to seek redress. the slippery slope comes when we allow our, supposedly representative, government to dictate to us the terms of seeking redress.
      when a criminal commits a crime, we do not give him/her the power to write laws to protect him/herself from prosecution. so why do we allow the government to make laws to protect themselves when they act illegally, inhumanely or otherwise unconstitutionally?
      we have allowed America to go along way down that road already. so far, in fact, that your wish of a truly civil society may well be nothing more than illusion until the powers that currently be are properly curtailed and treated as the as the high criminals that they so truly are.
      we either have a government of constitution fearing representation to facilitate our day to day lives, or we have masters who only exist to facilitate the machinations of those who only exist by “fleecing the flock”.

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        Most people appreciate the difference between a protest and a riot. But too many types of protests, especially when most of the protestors are of a certain minority status, turn into riots almost as predictably as night follows day. But the law can’t say “protesting allowed for white, middle-class only.”

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          damn well right the law can’t say that. are you suggesting that it should?

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            You fail to appreciate the vast differences in the races. Whites appear to be the only group capable of peaceful protest. Yes some are violent, but in every non white country on earth, protests are violent. What is essentially a police state is needed to keep order and peace in a multicultural society. You can have freedom or you can have diversity. You cannot have both. History proves this over and over. Look at the footage of the old inaugurations. No hint of this type of paramilitary and draconian security/police state. Because it was a white nation. The browner it gets, the more security you see. Be honest with yourselves and acknowledge the problem. Diversity destroys freedom. This is an immutable fact of the universe and until it is confronted and discussed openly, the police state will continue to grow.

            Calling me an eeevil mean nasty ole racist doesn’t change the facts. Just so you know.

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              ooooooh, the irony is so delicious! at the same time you were writing: “whites appear to be only group capable of peaceful protest” the most massive peaceful protest the world has ever seen was being carried out all across this world. not saying I agree with their “concerns” but it was massive, it was peaceful and it was multi-racial. and it just blew the absolute shit out of your cute little theory. and once again, because it is so delicious: this was happening while you wrote that.
              thing is, all whites are not alike. just take you and me as a patent example of that. if you want to make it about groups, you should really throw in with those little socialist snowflake assholes that you so love to hate because of the ones who are non-white among them. they are the ones who are the most vehemently anti-individual. so much like you, if you would just give them a chance. I mean look at them, they even manufacture facts out of thin air to fit their bullshit narratives just like you do.
              calling you an eeevil mean nasty ole racist may not change the mind sludge that you believe to be facts. but that’s ok, cuz calling you such truthful things is very cathartic for me. 🙂

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              One would need to be pretty much totally blind to be unable to see the differences between the races.

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          Of course, that wouldn’t be profiling, would it?

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      I know, just like those blacks that pulled out the white man, beat him almost to death and then stole his car… oh sorry, they were Hillary supporters on welfare and the white man was a Trump voter…. oh yeah, real life not your fantasy of Trump voters becoming 3rd world monkeys jumping on cars and beating people up. Thanks for your jewish media revision though, it was entertaining.

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      Its about time these type of laws were inacted. Protesting is one thing. But destroying property and harming people or threatening people for disagreeing with you is going too far!!!!

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    Trump signals an accelerated expansion of the police state.

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      Versus the acceleration under the previous two presidents?

      No doubt, I get that feeling too, but as far as I’m concerned if you’re hanging out in the middle of a highway and you get hit the driver shouldn’t be at fault. Yeah, if people are going out of their way to run over protestors/rioters that’s one thing, but forcing them to stop and expose themselves to danger for fear of legal reprisal is another.

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      Ha,ha,ha,. Try to pull your head away from msm and get some actual facts. Nothing could be worse than the dictator that thank God is GONE!

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        Obama is history. Time to stop whining about him and clinton. The neo-cons are back in power. And with the neo-cons in control of the house, senate, and presidency, they’re going to have no one but themselves to blame.

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          You are correct. The difference is, we republicans WILL hold trump accountable unlike the left who supports criminals, no matter how corrupt they are.

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            The Republicans will be in control of the house, senate, and presidency and the republicans will:
            1) hold trump accountable
            2) tell him what to do

            That’s redundant.

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              People who are skeptical are right to be so. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I think it is possible that Trump has been cast in the roll of a Herbert Hoover where he will take the blame for things that have been set in motion long before he got there. Herbert Hoover is demonized to this day for causing the Great Depression when it was a decade of reckless and irresponsible policies that were the real cause. Hoover had only been President for months when things began to fall apart. The Dems where able to use this shifting of the blame slight of hand to discredit conservatism for almost 2 decades and usher in the beginning of the modern government dependence paradigm. Globally speaking I think the fuse is already lit for economic cataclysm.

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                Hoover was the last protectionist president and his policies contributed to the Great Depression. Running a business and running an economy are two entirely different things. I’m wondering where trump is getting his protectionist ideas from. It does look like he’s being set-up to fail.

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                  Kindly define protectionism, since it is apparent that you mean something totally different than most of us.

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                    Protectionism refers to government actions and policies that restrict or restrain international trade. One should recognize that all government action means coercion, so that calling upon the US government to intervene means urging it to use force and violence to restrain peaceful trade.

                    A free market is absolutely critical to a free society.

                    “Protectionism is simply a plea that consumers pay higher prices so as to confer permanent special privilege upon groups of less-efficient producers, at the expense of more competent firms and of consumers. But it is a peculiarly destructive kind of bailout, because it permanently shackles trade under the cloak of patriotism.”
                    – Rothbard

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                      I’ll have to assume that you missed the fact that the states of the union are considered to be independent countries in a confederation. The “civil war” was about the way that the southern states were being treated by the northern states, being forced to pay tariffs, in violation of the Constitution. Trade need not be international to be subject to protectionist policies. Anytime any government does anything to impede any trade, that is a protectionist policy and abridges free trade, destroying any free market that might have existed. Since free trade has been extinct in North America since, at least, the early 19th century, so has any semblance of an free market.

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              Redundancy is absent.

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          You are displaying an apparent inability to separate RINOs from neo-cons.

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      well that sounds inflammatory, so I am sure that you are aware of that and are prepared to lay out your case. if not then, please stfu about how the sky is falling. k?

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        The Republicans were responsible for introducing the Patriot Act and The National Defense Authorization Act. Neo-cons were at the helm during the largest false flag attack in American history. Trump was chosen for his divisive nature and the flames of civil unrest have been repeatedly fanned over the past few years.

        Republicans have always been the ‘law-and-order’ party. The US is one false flag away from martial and trump will be THE MAN to usher it in. Most likely the neo-cons will use America’s Islamophobia for their authoritarian crackdown.

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          The patriot act couldn’t have been passed without Democrat votes. There is plenty of blame to go around.

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            No doubt. I argue often that there is no substantial difference between the neo-cons and neo-libs.

            My point is, I’m astonished that anyone would think the Republicans are going to ‘see the light’ and change direction after a 150 year history of corporate welfare and crony capitalism.

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            Neither could have the Enabling Act have been without communist support.

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          ok, bush was president for all the bad shit legislation that you speak of. but both my state;s demo senators were more than happy to vote for all the shit.
          can you try again without the two party horse shit?
          as for the martial law bringing false flag. it is coming, I agree, but everyone was saying the same thing about Obama going to be the one to usher it in.
          neocons, progressives. all the same thing.


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