Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Republican lawmakers, it appears, have been emboldened by Trump's open contempt for free expression. (Photo: ACLU Nationwide/Facebook)

Since Trump's Election, 20 States Have Moved to Criminalize Dissent

"In my dozen years of monitoring state legislation, I've certainly not seen a wave of anti-protest bills this large," said ACLU attorney Lee Rowland

Jake Johnson

In what is being called the "biggest protest crackdown since the Civil Rights Era," Republicans in at least 20 states have put forward or passed laws with the intention of making protest more difficult and the punishment for expressing dissent more draconian since President Donald Trump's inauguration in January.

"The state will try to devise ways to squash opposition and chill the will of people who are willing to face risks to their liberty to further their cause."
—Chase Iron Eyes, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Throughout his bid for the White House, Trump frequently signaled his support for taking forceful action against those who vocally opposed him at campaign rallies and speeches, once suggesting a protester who interrupted a rally "should have been roughed up."

In what was characterized as "an act of intimidation," Trump also floated the idea of "jailing journalists who publish classified information" in a private meeting with former FBI Director James Comey.

Republican lawmakers, it appears, have been emboldened by Trump's open contempt for free expression. News outlets, alarmed by the trend, have kept a running tally of states with anti-dissent laws in the works. Common Dreams reported in April that the number had reached 19, up from 10 in January. Now, according to The Daily Beast, 20 states are in the process of attempting to suppress peaceful resistance.

  • In North Dakota, several measures were passed during protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, one of which makes it illegal for demonstrators to cover their faces.
  • Missouri, Washington, Georgia, Nebraska, and Montana are considering similar laws.
  • In Minnesota, a "pending bill would allow a state or local government to bring a civil action against people 'convicted of participating in an unlawful assembly' in order to recover 'public safety response costs,'" according to Vox.
  • "North Dakota, Tennessee and Florida have submitted bills immunizing motorists who strike a protester if a demonstration obstructs traffic," USA Today reported.
  • In Wisconsin, a proposed bill would punish "anyone under the jurisdiction of the institution who engages in violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, obscene, unreasonably loud, or other disorderly conduct that interferes with the free expression of others."
  • North Carolina State Senator Dan Bishop has vowed to introduce legislation that would criminalize heckling.
  • Iowa and Mississippi have filed bills that would make "blocking high-speed roads a felony."

With such measures proliferating across the U.S., the United Nations condemned the trend as both "alarming and undemocratic."

"In my dozen years of monitoring state legislation, I’ve certainly not seen a wave of anti-protest bills this large," Lee Rowland, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), recently told the New York Times.

Attempts to crackdown on dissent have also begun to affect the work of the national press. In a move that sparked immediate outrage, Senate Republicans last week announced new rules making it difficult for reporters to interview lawmakers in the hallways of the Capitol.

On Monday, the White House barred reporters from making audio or video recordings of the daily press briefing, prompting an indignant reaction from CNN's Jim Acosta, who deemed it deliberate "suppression of information."

Chase Iron Eyes, an activist and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, recently characterized the White House's anti-dissent posture, as well as Republican efforts to criminalize protest, as an attempt to "send chilling effects" and delegitimize activists engaged in non-violent resistance.

"The state will try to devise ways to squash opposition and chill the will of people who are willing to face risks to their liberty to further their cause," he concluded.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·


Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·


US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·


Federal Judge Orders Starbucks to Rehire Fired Union Organizers in Memphis

"It was a ruling in favor of what's right," said one member of the Memphis Seven. "We knew from day one that we were going to win this, it just took time."

Brett Wilkins ·


Activists Arrested While Protesting 'Dirty Pipeline Deal' Outside Schumer's Office

"Sen. Schumer is sacrificing frontline communities and our clean energy future, all to placate a coal baron," said one organizer, referring to the majority leader's side agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo