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Anti-protest bills could bring bias

DEAR EDITOR:

There is little media coverage of Senate Bills 16 and 41 and House Bill 22, which harshly criminalize Ohioans’ freedom to protest.

SB 16 creates penalties related to harm, intimidation or obstruction of a police officer, while also criminalizing blocking traffic during a protest. The bill also criminalizes providing “material support,” which would include donations to organizations who organize a protest that turns destructive.

As we’ve seen over the past year of racial justice protests and the Jan. 6 insurrection, our country has two very different responses to protesters based on what’s being protested. It’s hard to imagine if this bill became law, it would be used to prosecute Republican supporters who donated to any “stop the steal” type rally that resulted in damage to the Ohio Statehouse.

The same goes for SB 41, which would require anyone convicted of rioting or inciting violence to pay back the damages they caused. It sounds reasonable, but I don’t hear lawmakers talking about the $1.2 million in Ohio tax dollars spent on sending the National Guard to the U.S. Capitol after Jan. 6. I have

a hard time believing this bill would be implemented in such a scenario.

HB 22 proposes criminalizing “taunting” a police officer. Does that apply to armed protesters like the ones at the Ohio Statehouse Jan. 17? Of course not. And that’s the problem with all of these bills.

There is an obvious bias in why these bills were introduced, who they were intended to prosecute and the message they are meant to send. They are designed to intimidate Ohioans seeking social change and racial justice. They are designed to infringe upon our First Amendment rights. It’s disappointing but a totally expected move from an increasingly cruel and anti-democratic Republican party that has a super-majority in our state legislature. Their recklessness was just demonstrated in their veto override of the health order bill. It would be one thing if these were original ideas, but the fact that these elected “leaders” are still just dangling from the coattails of the former president is the most disappointing.

ANTHONY LaMARCA

Youngstown

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