A Republican state senator in Missouri pushed a bill on Monday that would permit the use of deadly force against protesters on private property and would grant immunity to people who run down protesters blocking traffic, according to The Associated Press.
The proposal is one of several that follow sometimes violent protests in Missouri last summer over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, including demonstrations that blocked traffic on busy roads in the St. Louis area.
“To think that your right to protest enables you the right to stop traffic and literally stop people’s ability to move about freely in this nation is a gross misunderstanding of our constitutional rights,” bill sponsor Sen. Rick Brattin said during the Monday hearing.
The Harrisonville Republican said blocking traffic can be dangerous if it stops ambulances or police from responding to emergencies.
The bill would make it a felony to block traffic as part of a protest, per the report, and punish government employees who participate in unlawful assemblies.
Government employees convicted of participating in unlawful assemblies could no longer be paid and would be stripped of all other employment benefits. Cities and counties would be cut off from any state funding if local officials make cuts to police budgets that are significantly deeper than cuts to other services, an effort to stymie activists’ calls to defund the police.
Missouri civil rights leader the Rev. Darryl Gray told committee members that people also disagreed with how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. protested, but “those same methods that you seek to criminalize are the same methods that helped to destroy Jim Crow laws, segregation and destroyed centuries of hatred and bigotry.”