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Fight Missouri's Move to Criminalize Peaceful Protest

Fight Missouri's Move to Criminalize Peaceful Protest

Fight Missouri's Move 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 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 Missouri, House Bill 179 has been introduced. This bill makes it a class A misdemeanor to conceal your identity while engaging in “unlawful assembly” or “rioting.” For many activists, it is common to conceal your identity during peaceful protests by wearing a mask. Individuals who don’t wish to have their image in the media, those who fear repercussions at their places of employment, and those who are concerned about state and corporate surveillance often choose to cover their faces even when just holding signs. Furthermore, what constitutes an “unlawful assembly” is often determined by the authorities.

Animal rights activists often cover their faces at peaceful, lawful public demonstrations. It’s critical that we stand up to HB 179 not only for our sake, but for all activists who will be harmed by this law!

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