Home > Uncategorized > Criminalizing protest as a symptom of fascist decay – posted 5/23/2021

Criminalizing protest as a symptom of fascist decay – posted 5/23/2021

It has now been almost four years since neo-Nazi James Fields plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville during the infamous “Unite the Right” demonstration. Fields severely hurt over 30 people and killed 32 year old Heather Heyer. Fields was later convicted of first degree murder, malicious wounding and hit and run. He pled guilty to 29 federal hate crime charges to avoid the death penalty.

While the act of driving a vehicle into a crowd of people is deranged, the truth is that since the George Floyd protests, dozens of drivers have maliciously rammed into crowds of protesters marching in roadways. USA Today reported cars have hit demonstrators 104 times since the Floyd protests began. There have been two fatalities, one in Seattle and another in Bakersfield, California.

Instead of recognizing the criminality of such cold-blooded, vicious behavior, Republican legislators around the country responded with laws providing immunity for drivers who kill or injure protesters. It is like they are offering permission and a seal of approval to assault protesters with their cars. They are making it easier for that to happen.

The ACLU calls these bills “hit and kill” bills. In April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that grants civil immunity to people who decide to drive their cars into protesters who are engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, blocking a road. Republican legislators in Oklahoma similarly passed a bill that grants civil and criminal immunity to motorists who kill or injure protesters “fleeing from a riot”.

These bills are part of a broader effort to criminalize protest and narrow our First Amendment rights. GOP legislators in 34 states introduced 81 anti-protest bills since the beginning of the year. Using the excuse of being “anti-riot”, many of these bills make it dangerous to engage in mass public protests of any kind.

The bills do things like expand the definition of rioting to sweep up more protesters under that rubric. Florida makes it a crime to use what they call “mob intimidation” which is defined as when three or more people “gather to threaten to force another person from taking a viewpoint against their will”. What constitutes “mob intimidation” is beyond vague, just wildly open to interpretation. Vagueness allows prosecutorial mischief with chilling effect.

In Iowa, the legislature introduced an anti-protest bill that would increase the penalties for a riot from an aggravated misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill enhances the punishment for unlawful assembly by those who block streets or sidewalks during protests. South Carolina has also proposed legislation that criminalizes blocking streets or sidewalks and imposes a punishment of five years in prison.

In power and rising to power, fascist parties typically do not tolerate political opposition and dissent. They have a history of gaining power by squashing political opposition. The anti-riot bills are the Republican response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the ferment caused by the repeated episodes of police brutality. They are a further step down the authoritarian road.

This criminalizing of protest is part of a broader pattern discarding any quality of normalcy in Republican politics. We are witnessing the degeneration of the party into a 21st century fascist entity.

I am not being hyperbolic. Consider the voter suppression legislation in many states, the refusal to accept the 2020 presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power, opposition to a January 6 Commission, the sexist effort to eliminate womens’ reproductive rights, and the Trump-inspired “patriotic education” bills which attempt to whitewash American history.

Winning at all costs is the game plan and amorality is the ethos.

These are all pieces of a bigger puzzle and the cumulative picture is not the old Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. It is a different creature. The party is now unified in its submission to a cult of personality. Along with commitment to white supremacy, loyalty to Donald Trump, aspiring dictator, is the reigning ideology. Republicans must slavishly fall into line behind their Dear Leader or face the ostracized fate of Liz Cheney.

The party has wedded itself to the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. For Republicans, how humiliating to mouth a fraudulent narrative when the entire world knows it is a lie. You get the absurd spectacle of the Arizona audit.

Fear of Trump and his goons keep Republican officeholders in line. Some like Rep. Pete Meijer (R-MI) have expressed concern about the physical safety of Republican colleagues who told him they were afraid to impeach Trump after January 6. GOP freshman Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-S.C) applied for a concealed carry permit and sent her kids away out of fear because she opposed Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Trump increased tolerance for intimidation, hate and bullying inside the party.

Officeholders like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu who take the most modest steps to separate from Trump are extremely careful to never disparage him. This is no profile in courage. Behind his smiling face, Sununu must worry the Trump mob might turn on him. Only a very few Republicans have had the courage to speak up about the authoritarianism.

In both 2016 and 2020, Trump said losing was not an option. In 2016, he had said he would not accept the results of the election – until he won. In 2020, Trump lost but refused to concede. Refusing to concede broke with a democratic tradition dating back to 1797 when George Washington willingly stepped down as our first president.

If you argue that losing is an impossible result, you are mirroring the behavior of autocrats who refuse to give up power and who reject the results of democratic elections.

What motivates rank and file Republicans to reject democracy in favor of a Putin-wannabee figure like Trump? Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, offered a surprising answer. Researching 377 people who were arrested in connection with the January 6 insurrection, Pape found that fear of the “Great Replacement” was a powerful motivator.

Insurrectionists interviewed believed minorities are replacing white population due to mass immigration policies and low white birthrate. Pape found that the insurrectionists were generally older and more professional than right wing protesters surveyed in the past. They were overwhelmingly white and male. A high percentage of the insurrectionists hailed from counties experiencing a significant decline in the non-Hispanic white population.

Fascist movements rely on scapegoating and, in America, immigrants are playing the role the Jews played in Nazi Germany.

People who identify as Republicans need to ask themselves: are you on board with junking democracy for fascism? What happens next with the Republican Party could make or break our democracy.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. steveacherry
    May 23, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    Good work bro

    Sent from my iPhone

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