Preserve the Ability to Protest

Where to begin?

Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere…

If I tried to begin where it hurts, I’d have Warsan Shire’s poem echoing in my mind, each moment of the day.

I am not everywhere at once, I do not have that ability. Would that I could even stop time and simulate it relative to others. I am also not good at processing things in parallel. I might be better at that than many, but even I can tell it is deleterious. I’ve been overwhelmed, in the days after the election, so it has taken me almost two months to regain my bearings. That’s precious time lost. (May history forgive me, I have a hard time just now, but I am also human.)

So, let me start in one state, with a proposed bill that is being couched as innocuously helpful and even making protests safer. It has just been named the “Prevent Economic Disruption Act,” and the proposal on the table in the Washington State Legislature is to criminalize, as felony, acts of protest which cause an economic inconvenience to some.

The ability to protest freely is a linchpin within a movement to peacefully resist. The ability to protest in a way that becomes noticed by those who do not necessarily agree with the protesters is, out of necessity, often disruptive. Nearly every civil rights protest in its day has been disruptive, causing some economic inconvenience to some. This has been true and in fact seen in every nation.

On the reverse side, the attempt to escalate the criminalization of certain kinds of protest and hem in the boundaries of protest to only those which are out of sight must be seen for what it is: a sneaky attempt at censorship by an ally of the incoming administration in response to the early days of resistant protest. The comparison to protecting health clinics is clever, however the degree of punishment proposed compared to other law and compared to the nature of protests so far is excessive and likely excessive by design. I believe the intent of the proposed law is to make the potential cost of protesting to individual protesters perceived as not worth the trouble, and hence to quell most protests.

Should this law be enacted in Washington, it may well become a model for other states to enact. Given the time-critical nature of resistance, itself, we cannot wait for the potential legality to be sorted out — especially not by a U.S. Supreme Court if that court becomes increasingly compromised by appointees from the new administration.

Fight for the Future has started a petition against the proposed new law here:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/urgent-new-law-would-charge-protesters-with-terrorism/

(Fight for the Future, as you might recall, is an action network that got its start successfully advocating for network neutrality.)

I urge you to sign it, with comment.

More than that, we will need to take care to observe the news and look for parallel efforts appearing in other state legislatures. One thing that the recent past has taught us is that — for better and for worse — everyone has learned to pursue all state legislatures in parallel. Mostly, it is the reactionaries who have made the best use of this, as we’ve seen on several fronts (anti-abortion legislation, anti-marriage legislation and referendums, and most recently anti-trans legislation in retaliation against legal victories for marriage).

There will be more to do, daily.

Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere…

I am not good at everywhere at once, but I will try to put up at least one fight every day.

(I’ve been strategizing on other things I must do, trying to make the best use of my strengths and avoid my usual pitfalls. More on this in the coming months, I hope sooner, but there’s a lot of work to do, and I’d best not get ahead of myself here…)

–random

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