In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Government information we have received concerning a number of proposed Bills criminalizing peaceful protests in 16 states in the United States of America (USA), representing a worrying trend that could result in a detrimental impact on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the country.
In an unprecedented move, representatives from the United Nations have sent a letter to the US government offering a strong condemnation for proposed legislation in sixteen states that are meant to limit peaceful protest.
The letter, drafted by David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, claims that if passed, these bills would be “incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law.”
They add, “the trend also threatens to jeopardise one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech.”
The UK-published Independent reported on the the letter, and covered the specifics of the proposed legislation in each state. For example, in the states of Tennessee and Florida, “the bills would exempt drivers from liability if they accidentally hit and even killed a pedestrian participating in a protest.”
Highlighting issues of semantics, the said, “There can be no such thing in law as a violent protest. There are violent protesters, who should be dealt with individually and appropriately by law enforcement. One person’s decision to resort to violence does not strip other protesters of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This right is not a collective right; it is held by each of us individually. Peaceful assembly is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the government has no business imposing a general requirement that people get permission before exercising that right”