New Executive Order Directs Federal Government to Pursue Harsher Crackdown on Protesters

Posted on February 21, 2017

A new executive seeking to bolster policing efforts may usher in a policy of tougher measures against protesters. Issued last week, the order instructs the Department of Justice to more proactively and aggressively pursue federal prosecution against those alleged to have engaged in violence against law enforcement personnel at all levels. It also directs Congress to draft and pass new laws with stricter penalties for those convicted of such offenses. 

While these efforts are ostensibly intended to provide a stronger deterrent against explicitly targeting law enforcement officers for attacks, civil rights advocates fear that the Justice Department measures and prospective federal statutes which the order encourages will be wielded against peaceful protesters, especially those engaging in civil disobedience. Minor scuffles or altercations between protesters and police as they attempt to contain a demonstration’s movements and activities could, under such new measures, be grounds for federal charges carrying harsh minimum sentences against the protest’s participants. Such an legal regime would significantly curtail the exercise of First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. 

You can find the full story from Flint Taylor’s piece for Truthout here.