In an era where protests can reach everyone and vary in motivation and form, whether it’s teachers seeking a living wage, athletes protesting police violence or standing up to fascism, the reins of political power are being gripped ever tighter.
Police are backing new measures clamping down on protests across the country. Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll admitted to In These Times that he lobbied state lawmakers to target Black Lives Matter with new legislation. The proposed law would levy steep penalties on protests that block traffic.
A common complaint of those who wish to chill protest is the desire to prevent traffic obstruction. Kentucky even tried to legalize the vehicular homicide of protesters who block traffic. Law enforcement also lobbied for anti-protest laws in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington and Wyoming according to Ear to the Ground and 31 states have either initiated plans to curb the right to protest since Trump’s election.
Protester Spencer DesAuteles told CNN in 2017 about a street-blocking protest where a car drove through a crowd of demonstrators. DesAuteles was not seriously injured, but he was taken for a ride.
“We made eye contact. The driver stopped and then just decided to slowly drive through me,” he said. “There was nowhere else to go. It was get out of the way or get under the wheels of the car. So we got driven on the hood of this car for some distance.”
And, of course, not everyone is that lucky. Heather Heyer was killed by a car attack in 2017 at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
But Kroll, who has called Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization, supports Minnesota legislation that would criminalize the actions of DesAuteles and curb the rights of Heyer.
Protesters also are routinely put under surveillance. The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring activists of color which it called “black supremacists“. And while big data makes it significantly easier, the history of law enforcement keeping tabs on its political opponents is a long one.
Now law enforcement wants to do more than watch protests — it wants to punish them.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) has not committed to either supporting or opposing this legislation.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.