Republican Senator Rick Brattin has proposed a new bill in Missouri that would allow authorities to use deadly force against protesters who are on private property. It would also offer immunity to anyone who runs over demonstrators while they’re blocking traffic. If passed, it would become a felony crime for protesters to block traffic.
“To think that your right to protest enables you the right to stop traffic and literally stop people’s ability to move about freely in this nation is a gross misunderstanding of our constitutional rights,” Brattin said during a hearing on Monday, January 25.
The senator proposed this bill in response to protests that took place in Missouri last year over the deaths of unarmed African Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Some of these demonstrations blocked traffic on busy roads in St. Louis.
Many people are upset with this proposed legislation and the potential danger it could pose to the Black community. Missouri Civil Rights leader Reverend Darryl Gray pointed out that people didn’t necessarily agree with the way in which Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. protested, but “those same methods that you seek to criminalize are the same methods that helped to destroy Jim Crow laws, segregation and destroyed centuries of hatred and bigotry.”
Gray argued that non-violent protesters could be unfairly targeted and penalized for trying to put an end to issues like police brutality.
The Senate committee so far hasn’t scheduled a vote on the bill.