A Trump-supporting Republican lawmaker is trying to legally define protests, like some of those erupting across the country against his candidate of choice, labeled a form of "terrorism." In a statement issued Wednesday, Washington state Senator Doug Ericksen says he is drafting a bill that would allow for felony prosecution of protesters who "intentionally break the law...by obstructing economic activity." Considering that almost all protest could be defined as getting in the way of business interests, Ericksen's bill is an obvious attack on citizens' First Amendment rights.
In an unvarnished look at the trickery we may see plenty of in Trump's America, Ericksen says he will propose creating "a new crime of economic terrorism" which could be used against those whose protest activities "block transportation and commerce, cause property damage, threaten jobs and put public safety at risk." Ericksen, who was Trump's deputy campaign director in Washington state, said in the statement that he's actually all for civil disobedience, even though he wants to make many kinds of protest -- that is, constitutionally protected freedom of speech and assembly -- felony offenses.
"I respect the right to protest, but when it endangers people's lives and property, it goes too far," Ericksen said. "Fear, intimidation and vandalism are not a legitimate form of political expression. Those who employ it must be called to account."
Ericksen also threatened those who support protesters in their right to protest, stating, "We are not just going after the people who commit these acts of terrorism. We are going after the people who fund them. Wealthy donors should not feel safe in disrupting middle-class jobs."
Since we're on the subject of economic issues, it seems relevant to point out that an Associated Press investigation found during the first four months of 2013, Ericksen was "the biggest beneficiary of lobbyist expense accounts" of all Washington's lawmakers. The AP report noted that lobbyists treated Ericksen to "free meals, drinks or golf...about every other day over the first four months of the year -- and even more frequent[ly] if weekends are excluded." Ericksen, who has been consistently poor on climate issues, had at the time just taken a leadership role in the state Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. The investigation found that Ericksen accepted these gifts from lobbyists who overwhelmingly "represented energy and oil companies, such as BP."
In a statement released earlier this year, Washington State Democrats communications director Jamal Raad said, "When big oil asks Doug Ericksen to jump, his only question is 'how high?'"
As Washington ACLU spokesperson Doug Honig noted to the Seattle Times, there are already laws in place that make it illegal to imperil people's lives and property, so Ericksen's bill is completely redundant. Honig also pointed out that the ambiguity of Ericksen's "economic terrorism" could make protests like those in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline a crime. Speaking with Fox affiliate Q13 Honig noted Ericksen's fundamentally un-American bill would have kept African Americans from protesting their treatment in the 1960s.
"Let's keep in mind that civil rights protesters who sat down at lunch counters could be seen as 'disrupting business' and 'obstructing economic activity,' and their courageous actions were opposed by segregationists as trying to 'coerce business and government,'" Honig said.
He added, "The statement throws out a lot of broad rhetoric, and we'll need to see an actual bill. But we're already concerned that some of its loose terms appear to be targeting civil disobedience as 'terrorism.' That's the kind of excessive approach to peaceful protest that our country and state do not need."
Contact information for Doug Ericksen's office is listed on his website, should you have any thoughts you'd like to express about his proposed legislation. His office phone number -- always the best way to reach a legislator -- is (360) 786-7682.