Indianapolis, IN — Protesters in Indiana may soon face violent and even deadly police action if a newly proposed and ominous bill passes.
The bill, simply titled Senate Bill 285, requires officials in Indiana to quickly dispatch police to remove protesters blocking traffic — “by any means necessary.”
According to the Guardian, opponents of the bill, introduced by a Republican state senator, rushed to the general assembly in Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon to attend a hearing for the legislation, arguing that it could give a green light to the police to shut down protests harshly “even to the point of costing lives.”
The legislation was introduced by Republican senator Jim Tomes, who is known for his remarkably tyrannical proposals like jailing transgender people for up to a year if they are caught using public bathrooms matching their gender identity instead of the gender on their birth certificate.
“A responsible public official shall, not later than 15 minutes after learning of a mass traffic obstruction in the official’s jurisdiction, dispatch all available law enforcement officers … with directions to use any means necessary to clear the roads of the persons unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic,” the bill states.
Dubbed the “block traffic and you die bill,” citizens and human rights groups are worried about its passage.
“I find it very disturbing and I don’t see a need for this as we have had some large protests here but there was never any problem with them,” said Sue Ellen Braunlin, co-president of the Indiana religious coalition for reproductive justice.
“We have stopped traffic for a short time during protests, with police cooperation. Often they will let us stop traffic and we have not had a problem. We’ve had a women’s rights march and a Black Lives Matter march and it was all very peaceful and coordinated with the police. This bill doesn’t make sense,” Braunlin said, according to the Guardian.
No one likes it when protesters block traffic. In fact, the Free Thought Project has been outspoken on the issue as it has the potential to cause harm if there is an emergency. However, for the most part, it is nothing less than a group of people, who feel oppressed, causing a minor inconvenience to get their point made.
In spite of how it may make you personally feel, responding to blocked roads with police action that grants an already violence-prone police force to react with ‘any means necessary,’ is a dangerous idea.
“I think the new legislation would make protesting in Indiana very dangerous, even to the point of costing lives,” said Braunlin.
Sadly, this legislation is a new theme among lawmakers seeking to discourage protests. Earlier this week, the Free Thought Project reported on another bill, introduced by Rep. Keith Kempenich (R), that would make it legal to run over protesters if the driver says he or she didn’t mean to do it.
House Bill Number 1203 states:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a driver of a motor vehicle who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway, is not guilty of an offense.”
It appears that the ostensible freedom to protest in the land of the free, may soon be limited to a windowless room in the middle of the desert.