MediaJustice

Ms. Vanita Gupta
Associate Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20540

Ms. Kristen Clarke
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20540

August, 10, 2021

Dear Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke,

We write to you, two champions of racial justice, to convey our rapidly growing fear and concern over draconian anti-protest bills that harken back to the Jim Crow era, and are being passed into law across the country.

It’s been one year since we took to the streets in historic numbers amid a global pandemic to stand up for Black lives. Our persistent, loud and clear voices, and organizing efforts were instrumental in obtaining a modicum of accountability for George Floyd. As a result of our collective repudiation of white supremacy and efforts to end the police terror of Black communities, we’re now facing an unprecedented backlash from Republican lawmakers.

State lawmakers have introduced more than 100 punitive anti-protest bills since the summer of 2020, and 81 in 2021 alone – that’s more than twice as many proposals as in any other year.

These laws, often backed by organizations affiliated with police unions, are an attempt to criminalize free speech, punish those who speak up for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, and even offer specific protections for counter-protesters who harm us.

Eight states have already passed anti-protest laws this year. In Florida, Oklahoma, and Iowa, laws include deputizing vigilante violence by protecting drivers who injure protesters with their cars – reminiscent of state-sanctioned white mob violence of the post-Reconstruction era. A proposed bill in Indiana would ban anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office; and bills pending in Minnesota and Oregon would disqualify people convicted of protest-related crimes from enrolling in public assistance programs – including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and unemployment benefits.

In addition to targeting our right to protest, the laws also undermine our collective struggle for Black freedom by allowing local police to penalize municipalities that reduce funding for law enforcement and denying bail to those arrested until their first court appearance – ensuring more of our people in jail.

This is an assault on our constitutional rights, our communities, and human rights. Even the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner decried the laws for violating international human rights law and the US Constitution’s protection of the right to peaceful assembly, and the explicit targeting of Black Lives Matter protesters.

We have seen time and time again that where racial justice protests flourish, anti-protest laws follow. And we know that police and prosecutors don’t need more tools or power to abuse our Constitutional rights. Congress has yet to act and seriously investigate the FBI for its racist designations such as the Black Identity Extremists (BIE), which are used to label movement activists as terrorists, and further legitimize its authority to stalk us and criminalize constitutionally protected activities. These racist “anti-protests” bills are inseparable from the wider political backlash against our movements fighting for Black liberation and freedom.

As leaders and advocates, we’re asking that you make a public statement condemning these laws on behalf of the Department of Justice, and support any efforts to sue states that have passed anti-protest legislation that disrupts our First Amendment Constitutional right to protest racial injustice. Your actions are necessary to protect the Constitutional rights of all people, and will support our work to protect the right to protest racial injustice, and BIPOC protesters around the country.

Until Justice is Real,

Color of Change
MediaJustice
Free Press

Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE)
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Civil Liberties Union
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
American Association of University Professors
ANSWER Coalition
Black and Brown Biennale
Black Freedom Collective
California LGBT Arts Alliance
Carceral Tech Resistance Network
Citizen Action of New York
Civil Liberties Defense Center
Center for Community Alternatives
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Protest Law & Litigation
Chicago Community Bond Fund
Community Change Action
Community Justice Project
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
CreaTV San José
Cunningham Township
Californians United for Budget Reform
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
DemCast USA
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
EX-incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO)
Fight for the Future
Fix Democracy First
Free Speech Coalition (FSC)
Greenpeace USA
Highlander Research & Education Center
Illinois State University
Initiative for a Representative First Amendment
Japanese American Citizens League
Just Futures Law

Line Break Media
Mainers for Accountable Leadership
Media Alliance
Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored
MPower Change
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Black Worker Center
National Lawyers Guild
NorCal Resist
Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter
Organization for Black Struggle
Palestine Legal
People’s Advocacy Institute
People’s Budget Greenfield
PEN America
PhillyCAM
Progressive Technology Project
Project On Government Oversight
Public Justice Center
Riverside All of Us or None
RootsAction.org
RYSE Center
St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN)
Semillas
Temple Beth El
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
Tully Center for Free Speech
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center
Washington Defender Association
Wealth Matters
Wisdom/Moses/Expo.
WITNESS
Woodhull Freedom Foundation
Workers Center for Racial Justice
Working Narratives
X-Lab

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