Georgia legislature advances bill restricting protests

Free Press’ Nora Benavidez, Georgia Recorder, March 8, 2022, slammed SB 171 for its potential to violate citizen’s free speech rights. The law requires a permit for any protest leaving the choice of protests up to enforcement agencies. It would restrict the free speech rights of state employees. Local governments would be liable for damages resulting from failure to provide protection during protests and expands the definition of “unlawful” assembly.”This is a recipe for disaster, encouraging law enforcement to engage with peaceful protestors in a way that certainly will lead to harm and further erode the already fragile relationship between law enforcement officers and the people they are sworn to protect,” writes Benavidez,. “Should citizens be treated like criminals for practicing their constitutionally protected right of free expression? Should already overburdened police be required to exert force on these citizens?”

SB 171 would increase penalties for blocking a highway, assault or damaging property. The law was prompted by reports that during protest in 2020 over police killings of Black men and women, city officials told police officers not to engage protesters damaging property. A Democratic state senator said a similar law had already been blocked in a Florida court. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. March 8, 2022, by Maya T. Prabhu)

For related FAC coverage, click here, here and here.