SB285: The Indiana Anti-Protester Bill

A bill introduce to the Indiana legislature seeks to curb citizens’ First Amendment right to assemble in peaceful protest. SB 285 – introduced by state Sen. Jim Tomes (R) – “[r]equires a responsible public official to, not later than 15 minutes after the responsible public official learns of a mass traffic obstruction, dispatch all available law enforcement personnel with instructions to clear the roads of persons unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic.”

The bill is one of many similar pieces of legislation nationally aimed at directly tackling opposition to the incoming Trump administration as well as ongoing Black Lives Matter and Dakota Access Pipeline protests across the nation.

SB 285 defines a “mass traffic obstruction” as anything from a protest or assembly to a riot (not taking into account any form of peaceful civil disobedience or protest) so long as at least ten persons are present. In the change to the law, SB 285 additionally offers a directive to those public officials charged with notifying law enforcement of any obstruction:

A responsible public official shall, not later than fifteen (15) minutes after first learning that a mass traffic obstruction exists in the official’s jurisdiction, dispatch all available law enforcement officers to the mass traffic obstruction with directions to use any means necessary to clear the roads of the persons unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic.

Indiana state Senator Karen Tallian (D) compared SB 285 to the policies of countries that routinely harm and kill protesters. She held up several photos demonstrating the kind of violence ‘by any means necessary’ policies engender including one of Russian tanks entering Czechoslovakia in 1968 to quell unrest.

Though SB 285 was scheduled to receive its first committee hearing on Wednesday, 1/18/2017 (after the first reading), that has been postponed.

If you want to contact Tomes to politely express your opinion on the targeting of protesters, you can find his information here.