In perusing the bills that would give immunity to drivers who injured or killed people who were protesting without a permit — among other things, there was a striking similarity. Of the bills legislators introduced, from North Dakota to North Carolina, with a few minor modifications, all were about the same.
Ever heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council? These right-wingers have been active for years; according to its website, it was founded in 1973. Since most of the anti-protester bills had much the same intent and the same language, it appeared that the council was likely behind the efforts.
The way it works — in simplified terms — is that the group writes up bill language and then finds a friendly legislator to introduce a bill incorporating that language. Then, things go awry.
The friendly legislator may find some of the proposed language in conflict with the state’s constitution and out that language goes. The bill may be subject to amendments that garner a few more votes or are designed to make the bill more “bipartisan,” garnering — it is hoped — a few sympathizers on the other side of the aisle.
Two such bills were introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives. Both bills died in the session, rendering a “Do Not Pass” outcome. House Bill 179 and House Bill 826 suffered this inglorious fate when quite a few legislators apparently came to their senses. They probably recognized that the measures were directed squarely at protesters who were opposed to something and also recognized, it is hoped, that hardly ever did drivers causing injury or death represent the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Lives Matter or other such organizations. Nope. The bills were aimed almost exclusively at what were viewed as left-wing protesters.
There have been several incidents involving right-wing people that add to this conclusion. The most media coverage was devoted to the young man who drove his car into a group of folks protesting the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. One was killed. But, if the bill granting immunity to anyone driving a motor vehicle who caused injury or death had been in effect at the time, local or state attorneys would have been prevented from taking any action. Rather than sit in jail awaiting trial for murder, the young man would have been as free as a bird.
That, then, is what these anti-protesting bills are all about: granting immunity to persons who strike a protester. Especially if that protester is what is viewed as a “left-winger.” Apparently, the language of the bills does not apply to the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, Boogaloo or other such far-right groups. If someone should dare to interrupt one of their gatherings or marches by running down one of their members, that person would be charged with all sorts of crimes.
We in Missouri can breathe a bit easier since the ALEC-inspired bills have died in session. But, there is always next year. While some in the Missouri House of Representatives have come to their senses, some have not.
And, barring a few setbacks, the American Legislative Exchange Council is still around and writing language for conservative legislators.