This alert is from Human Rights Watch (HRW) by Jonathan Pedneault:
Peaceful protests are protected by the United States Constitution’s First Amendment as well as international human rights law. But a legislative assault aimed at eroding these protections is underway in several state legislatures.
It’s nothing new. Various states have long-tried to curtail the right to protest. They do so by legislating wide definitions of what constitutes an “unlawful assembly” or a “riot” as well as increasing punishments. They also allow police to use catch-all public offenses, such as trespassing, obstructing traffic, or disrupting the peace, as a pretext for ordering dispersals, using force, and making arrests. Finally, they make it easier for corporations and others to bring lawsuits against protest organizers.
While proportionate restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly, like creating buffer zones around abortion clinics to ensure access, may be necessary, the use of catch-all offenses against peaceful demonstrators or the imposition of increased penalties to deter assemblies are not.
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