How much would you pay for your right to protest?
January 25, 2017 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Minnesota is the latest state legislature to introduce a bill that would increase fines levied against those exercising their constitutional right to peacefully assemble. MN State Representative Nick Zerwas (R), the bill's sponsor, does not address the potential cost of the fine that the only disruptive member of Saturday's Women's March, a counter-protester arrested by police for pepper spraying peaceful marchers, might receive.
posted by thenewbrunette (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so, so much bullshit.

How about Zerwas reads John Lewis's "March" and then go stand in a corner and think about what he's done.
posted by notsnot at 9:10 AM on January 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


Unfortunately (for those who will be at risk), this needs to be tested constitutionally. Leveeing fees on protesters surely seems like an infringement on the right to free speech. But, then again, so does kettling. And then there's the small matter of the new composition of the SCOTUS.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


You know, this is getting out of hand. Our government is actively working to remove our rights. At what point do we decide this isn't working and try something else? And I don't mean vote the fuckers out; gerrymandering et al are a legal way to keep democracy from happening. Maybe I'm just out of hope, but I'm sincerely thinking that some more violent measures might be necessary (where "violent" doesn't necessarily mean physical violence against other human bodies, but more like the radical overthrowing of our system of government.)
posted by nushustu at 9:20 AM on January 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


surely seems like an infringement on the right to free speech.

More specifically:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
posted by thelonius at 9:24 AM on January 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


"Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus. She didn’t get out and lay down in front of the bus."

Rosa Parks was arrested. Apparently Representative Zerwas thinks she should have had to pay for that police response. Also, it's pretty brazen to cite Rosa Parks when proposing your bill to punish civil disobedience.
posted by blankspot at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2017 [111 favorites]


I'm sincerely thinking that some more violent measures might be necessary (where "violent" doesn't necessarily mean physical violence against other human bodies, but more like the radical overthrowing of our system of government.)

There are direct action groups out there actively planning. You sound like you may want to consider getting involved in one.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:36 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Rosa Parks was arrested. Apparently Representative Zerwas thinks she should have had to pay for that police response. Also, it's pretty brazen to cite Rosa Parks when proposing your bill to punish civil disobedience.

We've whitewashed and neutered the history of the Civil Rights Movement to the point where people actually thinks this makes sense. From people like State Representative Zerwas I expect it's disingenuous; if he were Alabama Representative Zerwas in 1955, we'd be hearing about the poor people who were inconvenienced while a police officer came to arrest Rosa Parks, who should have to pay for it. There are people who fall for it, though. so it's important to push back: the Civil Rights Movement was disruptive, it was radical, it was opposed by many or most white Americans. People like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King didn't accomplish what they did by playing nicely, and they cannot be used as examples to bludgeon the civil rights activists of 2017 into playing nicely either.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2017 [87 favorites]


Representative Zerwas is making a name for himself within state Republican circles by sponsoring a bill on a popular hot button issue. Given that the current governor is a Democrat, I'm not sure how far this bill will get.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


It is indeed a struggle.
posted by Sphinx at 9:52 AM on January 25, 2017


Sadly, a fake news organization in Canada provoked a man who didn't have the good sense to walk away from bullies, and that man has now been charged with assault.
posted by Yowser at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2017


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


Not to take away from the theme of the post, sorry.
posted by Yowser at 9:55 AM on January 25, 2017


What I want to understand is how republicans are all so good at presenting canned legislation on their pet topics so quickly. Obviously he got the bill template from some legislative action organization at the same time as a bunch of other states' reps. Why don't progressive agencies have the same type of policy-swarm tactics?
posted by Think_Long at 10:05 AM on January 25, 2017 [10 favorites]


What I want to understand is how republicans are all so good at presenting canned legislation on their pet topics so quickly.

The answer is usually ALEC, not sure if that's the case here.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2017 [16 favorites]


Don't reps swear an oath to uphold the Constitution? Maybe we should make them all read it first and take a test to ensure they actually understand it before they get to submit legislation.
posted by smirkette at 10:10 AM on January 25, 2017 [8 favorites]


Why don't progressive agencies have the same type of policy-swarm tactics?

Are you insinuating protest marches don't actively change policy?
posted by mikoroshi at 10:10 AM on January 25, 2017


Sadly, a fake news organization in Canada provoked a man who didn't have the good sense to walk away from bullies, and that man has now been charged with assault.

Yowser, are you talking about the man arrested at the St. Paul march, one Paul David Pearson? Or something else? If so, can you point me to more information that would let me make sense of your comment?

All I've been able to figure out so far is that it seems unlikely the man arrested was the author of the definitive work on the early years of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, Alvar Aalto and the International Style. Though I could be wrong about that...
posted by Naberius at 10:13 AM on January 25, 2017


From local coverage:
Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, said she opposed the measure.

"In Minneapolis there is a lot of money paid out because police use excessive force," Omar said to Zerwas. "Who should be responsible for that?"

"That's a good question for your City Council and mayor," responded Zerwas.

Omar then told Zerwas he might want to co-author a bill with her that would make police who engage in excessive force responsible for the payouts to victims.

Zerwas did not reply.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:13 AM on January 25, 2017 [72 favorites]


Bad link there, Flannery.
posted by jon1270 at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2017


Are you insinuating protest marches don't actively change policy?

"Insinuate" is a weird word choice. I just mean that I don't see liberal bills being introduced simultaneously across the country in the same way as conservative ones, ie "the bathroom bill". It really sets the agenda of the national conversation.
posted by Think_Long at 10:19 AM on January 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


Naberius, I hate to give attention to the fake news site, but a protestor was charged who is from Edmonton. I really don't want to name the fake news site.
posted by Yowser at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


His office is located on Martin Luther King Blvd.
posted by cazoo at 10:26 AM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Why don't progressive agencies have the same type of policy-swarm tactics?

Because good legislation is exceptionally hard to draft, must take into account existing jurisdictional variance, and requires considerable thought even to identify as the right policy in the right place. These fundamental difficulties with caring about the consequences of one's actions are a primary reason why evil is so successful in fighting back over and over again. But you can't defeat evil by copying its tactics, you have to get better at other things. It sucks, but not being a prick is just more difficult than being a prick. Just how it is.
posted by howfar at 10:31 AM on January 25, 2017 [32 favorites]


They're going to produce a Baader Meinhof Gang before this is all over.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:31 AM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Next up? Information Retrieval Charges.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 10:35 AM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


Minnesota nice.
posted by teleri025 at 10:36 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]




That's OK - In Wisconsin if you work or ARE a student you can be suspended from the school for 6 months if you protest.

Can't find anyone who's been found guilty of that law - but its on the books.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:42 AM on January 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


Wow, fun with fascism!

I sympathize with protestors and have done it many times myself, but protesting is merely cathartic -- it gets your anger out of your system, but doesn't do anything as it usually means a weaker side is registering displeasure *after* something tyrannical has already happened. It makes you believe you are achieving something, but in fact, you are not. You need to get ahead of a problem, not try to play catch up.

So...

Instead of organizing protests, people in a weaker situation should just organize themselves straight to the ballots, and then organize themselves to their representative's office every week with directives, not placards, telling their reps what they need to do in order to have the privilege of serving another term in office. They can also exercise fun things such as recalls and impeachments just to keep the slackers on notice.

Politicians should never be allowed to have too much free time on their hands -- the illusion of power goes to their little heads, and then they think up all sorts of destructive insanity to keep the little people away from them as they boss them around.

They forget they are civil servants, and their job is to serve civilly.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:46 AM on January 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


What I want to understand is how republicans are all so good at presenting canned legislation on their pet topics so quickly.

Typically, it is because it is the same bill they have presented for the last 20 years. It is meant to signal their bona fides to certain elements of their constituencies and never expected to pass.

Except now it is 2017 and the foxes are in the hen house and soon they will be wondering why there are no chickens.
posted by srboisvert at 11:55 AM on January 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


> Instead of organizing protests, people in a weaker situation should just organize themselves straight to the ballots, and then organize themselves to their representative's office every week with directives

Hell, do both/all. Going to protests can give a much-needed boost to one's emotional and psychological state by being with lots and lots of other noisy people making noise.

Lots of people went to women's marches and are now home organizing and calling and making mailing lists and so on. Look, here's an IRL from a local mefite who's inviting other people to do exactly that!

Maybe, instead of telling people not to protest because oh my god how pointless, you invite them to come along with you to your rep's next constituents meeting or you organize a "how to run for office" workshop or etc.
posted by rtha at 12:21 PM on January 25, 2017 [24 favorites]


Thanks desuetude! My phone doesn't always copy/paste the entire URL and sometimes that sneaks past me.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


If protests were so ineffective, the Republicans wouldn't work so hard to shut them down.

My two Sens, Cornyn and Cruz, have taken to running away/banning visitors to their offices/trying to chase them off office building property where those offices are. They are cowards and afraid to face the people they purportedly govern on behalf of. And that includes even seeing them on the street or in the news.
posted by emjaybee at 12:46 PM on January 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


WTF, Minnesota? You are not the progressive haven that I remember as a child.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:52 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Well, I'll just add this to the list of appalling, horrible news I've read this week. Ugh.

If you happen to be a MN resident and want to contact your state legislators, here is a way to find your representatives and contact them.
posted by Janta at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2017


The fuck, emjaybee? Share that shit with me so I can share it around locally? Let's make those cowards run.
posted by sciatrix at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


At least it's not like the bill in North Dakota where protesters can just be run over if someone in a vehicle feels "threatened". Lucky Minnesota.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


These bills are just the legislative manifestations of Internet comment trolls and far right rant pieces on social media, all of which originates from people who have ulterior motives. The social media message barons, who make fame and fortune off of click-bate, circulate silly indignation over protesters and pull an inception trick on the loyal base who somehow think it was their own bright idea to say something so horrible as "We should be allowed to just run over a protester in the street." Rational people don't say that crap, brainwashed people do.

Representative Nick Zerwas is one of the brainwashed masses. He's a mid-thirties white guy who represents a district out in the burbs. His entire district is 40,000 people, and 98% are white. Median household income is $75,000. Only 8% live below the poverty level. This is all a pander to the constituents, who undoubtedly live and breathe in the same social media bubble. At most, he's pissed because I-94 has been blocked a few times due to protests, and if you like living needlessly far form downtown Minneapolis because you bought a house in 35 miles away Elk River, yet still work downtown, that may have been your commute route.

I constantly hear that we don't need more regulation from the GOP, and every time there is a bill proposed to strengthen laws that they don't like, they say that we just need to enforce the laws we have. It is time to stop letting the GOP make "smaller government" only work for their causes. I believe that in the past protestors have been charged under Minn. Stat. 609.74. Under 609.02, misdemeanors are already punishable with up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. So, this new legislation seems like grandstanding through a needless affront to the first amendment. Representative Zerwas needs to get back to serious, meaningful work.
posted by Muddler at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2017 [8 favorites]


Jesus Christ, the MN GOP is really going for the full power grab:

Republicans propose changes to Electoral College rules: Instead of winner take all, bills in Minnesota and Virginia would assign one electoral vote to each of the state's congressional districts.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:41 PM on January 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


I hate to rain on the parade of those arguing against this bill and others like it (which I agree are odious), but the First Amendment has long been interpreted to permit restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech so long as the restriction is neutral with regard to content, provide for legal alternatives, serve a significant government interest, and are narrowly tailored to serve that interest. Furthermore, this statute merely imposes civil liability for a statute that is already on the books, which makes "unlawful assemblies" a misdemeanor. If there's an argument to be made, it should be made against that statute, but I think such a regulation would pass constitutional muster. The government has a significant interest in preventing unlawful activity and disturbances of the peace, the statute is limited on its face to assemblies that threaten those interests, it provides for alternative avenues of speech (i.e. speech that does not disturb the peace) and is not limited to speech that espouses specific points of view. This law is clearly intended to stifle civil disobedience, and for that reason I am opposed to its enactment. But what would civil disobedience be without something to disobey?
posted by enjoymoreradio at 6:45 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Why don't progressive agencies have the same type of policy-swarm tactics?

There's no money in it. Republicans get a big payday from the shadow government of corporate billionaires for doing their bidding.
posted by any major dude at 6:48 PM on January 25, 2017


It's so cute when it pretends it can think.
posted by onesidys at 7:23 PM on January 25, 2017


The only constitutional amendment that matters is the 2nd one. And it will be used for the 28th (a ban on abortions). Only then will The Party of Trump rest.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:28 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


but more like the radical overthrowing of our system of government.

Way too many guns floating around in this country to even joke about this.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:10 PM on January 25, 2017


Zerwas and I had English class together in high school.
True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
- Vonnegut
posted by jillithd at 7:37 AM on January 26, 2017


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