Republicans attack protest rights in sweeping anti-democracy drive


Michael A. Cohen

“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” is a fundamental right of all Americans. It sits alongside freedom of speech, religion and the press in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Yet, increasingly, in red-state America it is under siege. In 45 states, Republican legislators are pushing through draconian laws to limit the ability of Americans to peacefully assemble and engage in political protest. The new laws, many of them a direct response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, not only risk having a chilling effect on political protest – they also are emblematic of the GOP’s increasingly authoritarian bent. 

Perhaps the most extreme example is in Oklahoma, where the Republican-controlled state legislature and GOP governor granted civil and criminal immunity to drivers who “unintentionally” injure or kill protesters while driving away from a riot. In effect, Oklahoma Republicans are making it easier for drivers to run over and potentially kill political protesters. 

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