More than 20 US states have cracked down on protests since Donald Trump's election

Proposals 'severely infringe upon freedom of expression' warns United Nations

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 09 May 2017 14:23
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Tennessee and  have proposed bills to toughen penalties for blocking roads or trespassing
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Tennessee and have proposed bills to toughen penalties for blocking roads or trespassing

More than 20 US states have proposed bills placing new restrictions on protests in the months since Donald Trump became President.

The potential laws included legislation creating stricter penalties for protesters who are arrested, and in some states, removing liability from drivers who accidentally injure protesters on the roads.

The United Nations (UN) said some of the proposals “would severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly". The legislation was incompatible with international human rights law, it warned.

It also said the legislation was part of a “worrying pattern”, adding that the proposals could have a “domino effect” on other states and lead to a general crackdown on demonstrations across America.

Under legislation in Missouri, wearing a mask or disguise while protesting would be a crime. In Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Florida there are proposed bills to toughen penalties for blocking roads or trespassing.

“Some of these bills are so egregious that you don't need a law degree to conclude they're unconstitutional,” Lee Rowland, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN.

The election of Mr Trump in January triggered a spate of mass protests. Hundreds of thousands of Americans joined the women's marches and a number of anti-Trump marches have taken place since.

Some of the laws the UN flagged as cause for concern had already been signed into law in North Dakota, in an apparent attempt to increase powers against protesters against the North Dakota Access pipeline.

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