Though not an endeavor supported by all, protests have proven their effectiveness time and time again. From hearing the rights of Black people with civil rights movements, to demanding and achieving steep repercussions for law enforcement abusing their power, we have seen it’s effects greatly in the past few decades. As Americans, It is within our constitutional right to participate and organize such gatherings. What’s crazy is that lawmakers, determined to ignore the cries and calls of the people, have taken it upon themselves to find a loophole.
Republic lawmakers and the Republican Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee have all signed off on a new law that will greatly punish active protesters residing in the state, according to theroot.com. Under the new law, which was signed by Gov. Lee after a three-day legislative session, demonstrators (or protesters) who camp on state-property, as many have been doing since George Floyd’s tragic death this year, can be charged with a Class D felony, a step up from the charge it was previously. Since Tennessee is one of the 21 states who takes the right to vote away from felons, this is just another pass at punishing citizens for practicing a right that the constitution allows them.
Lee has also refused to meet with any protesters, and after signing the bill said: “We saw lawlessness that needed to be addressed immediately. And that was done so.”
The fact that this law is even being considered, is in my opinion, almost as bad as it actually being passed. I find it very concerning that it is not being as widely talked about it as it should be. Just as easily as the law was passed in Tennessee, it could be passed in other places that house lawmakers with the same ideals as Gov. Lee. With how active protests have been in the last few months in an abundance of places around America, this law could be passed literally anywhere else and hundreds or thousands could be affected.
This could harm protesters not just by taking away their right to vote, but also by jeopardizing future opportunities or jobs because of a criminal record. Forcing demonstrators to stop their protests, most of which are for Black lives, seems to be a secondary agenda by Republican lawmakers. Stopping protests would mean stopping the attention being brought to social and racial injustices and the stop of holding those who participate in the active oppression of Black people from their place of power responsible. But all votes count, and without the ability to vote, one can’t contribute to placing who they want in the presidential office. That’s two constitutional rights taken away in one go.
Tennessee’s placing their citizens between a rock and a hard place, and this should be addressed.
By Kendal Amos, sophomore at little black pearl.