Iowa Moves to Criminalize Peaceful Protest!

Iowa Moves to Criminalize Peaceful Protest!

Iowa Residents: Take Action!

Iowa Moves to Criminalize Peaceful Protest!

Across the United States, our rights to peaceful means of protest are under attack. These attacks pave the way for our work as animal advocates to be repressed and criminalized. Multiple states have introduced to legislation to severely penalize protesters. Some states are attempting to turn former misdemeanors, such as blocking a highway, into felonies, while others are looking to stifle dissent by creating new categories of crime, such as “economic terrorism.” This is eerily reminiscent of the “Green Scare” of the mid-2000’s, which saw animal rights and environmental activists labeled “terrorists” and treated as such by the United States government. Some bills seek to create a climate of fear for people engaging in peaceful protest; bills put forward in North Dakota and Tennessee would make drivers who hit protesters not liable if the collision is “accidental.” Functionally, this allows drivers to run over protesters in a street or roadway. The North Dakota bill was defeated by only 9 votes out of 91, while the Tennessee bill has not yet been voted on. This is nothing less than a national assault on political dissent and non-violent protest.

In Iowa, Senate File 111 has been introduced, which would create increased penalties for protestors who block any highway with a speed of over 55 miles per hour. Obstruction of a highway is currently an aggravated misdemeanor in the state, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. Senate File 111 would turn blocking a highway from a misdemeanor into a class “D” felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Furthermore, if a county attorney choses not to begin the process of prosecuting protestors who block a highway within a month, the state attorney general may decide to prosecute. This erodes local control and does not allow for discretion to be practiced by county prosecutors.

This law has clearly been written in response to protestors who blocked a highway outside of Iowa City to express their concerns about the election of Donald Trump. Whether or not you agree with their tactics or message, the idea that this action should be punishable with a felony conviction and multiple years in prison is absurd. Senate File 111 has been written with the purpose of severely penalizing a specific type of dissent, and sets a precedent to further attack first amendment rights and the right to peaceably assemble. We need to speak up to protect not only ourselves as animal rights advocates, but also for everyone’s right to protest!

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