UN Tells US Lawmakers: No Such Thing 'As a Violent Protest’

Eric Scheiner | May 16, 2017
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(Protestors Block Traffic in Minnesota Photo: KTSP)

Two UN human rights experts are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of bills being drafted in several states focusing on protestors. Telling US lawmakers, “there can be no such thing in law as a violent protest” and to refrain from enacting certain legislation.

Special Rapporteurs Mr. Maina Kiai and Mr. David Kaye first made their communication to US authorities at the end of last month.

The communication claims, “Between 26 May 2015 and 23 February 2017, draft legislation was presented in 16 US states that, if passed into law, would severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in ways that are incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law.”

The UN Human Rights Office of the Commissioner followed up with a release on the report. In it, US lawmakers are criticized for proposing measures to crack down on protestors blocking traffic.

“In Indiana, Senate Bill No. 285 would allow law enforcement officials to ‘use any means necessary to clear the roads of people unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic’. Several bills, such as those proposed in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri, disproportionately criminalize protestors for ‘obstructing traffic’”. 

Measures in several states seeking to hold rioters responsible for physical and private property damage, were also mentioned in the report.

“There can be no such thing in law as a violent protest,” the experts said. “There are violent protesters, who should be dealt with individually and appropriately by law enforcement.

“We call on the US authorities, at the federal and state level, to refrain from enacting legislation that would impinge on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and opinion,” the experts concluded.

For the complete UN Human Rights Office release click here.


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