Anti-protest laws stifle free expression and threaten democracy

Activists worry legislation targeting climate and anti-racist protesters will have a “chilling” effect on people and organizations

PORTLAND, OR -- "Support from established organizations can be an important tool in successfully implementing civil demonstrations, making that resource a target for anti-protest legislation. If passed, Ohio’s HB 109 would increase penalties for protesters found to be blocking traffic and create new liability for organizations participating in or supporting a protest deemed to be a riot. Organizations that provide “material support or resources” to individuals or groups that “plan, prepare, carry out, or aid” a riot could also be criminally and civilly liable for engaging in rioting. Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist of the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the second provision would likely lead to a chilling effect where organizations avoid participation in public demonstrations due to a fear of liability.

...The ACLU has advocated against HB 109, testifying in the legislature, encouraging others to testify, sending out email action alerts, and raising awareness about the bill, which has passed the Ohio House of Representatives. Ohio Citizen Action and other progressive organizing groups have also raised awareness about the bill and its potential impact on the ability of social activists to speak out freely. 

“The security and the safety of our members and the people participating in our actions are our number-one priority,” said Grace Zhang, an organizer with Ohio Youth for Climate Justice. “Bills like this make it much more difficult for us to undertake action while still protecting our members if they don’t want to escalate or take on action that would threaten them.”