Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
The Minnesota Legislature introduced a bill to prevent protestors convicted of crimes from getting student loans.
This comes at a time when students are protesting the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
A bill in Indiana also prevents people convicted of protest-related crimes from getting jobless aid.
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In the 11 months since the Black Lives Matter movement emerged across the country, scores of Republican-led states are attempting to crack down on protests by introducing what they call “anti-riot” legislation, The New York Times reported.
GOP lawmakers in two of those states – Minnesota and Indiana – want to step up penalties for protesters, seeking to bar people convicted of crimes during a protest from receiving student loans and unemployment aid.
On April 8, the Minnesota Legislature, led by Republican Sen. David Osmek, introduced a bill that would make anyone convicted of a protest-linked crime ineligible to receive student loans, mortgage assistance, and many other forms of state aid.
According to the bill text, a person convicted of a crime at any protest or civil rally “is ineligible for any type of state loan, grant, or assistance, including but not limited to college student loans and grants, rent and mortgage assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance, unemployment benefits and other employment assistance, Minnesota supplemental aid programs, business grants, medical assistance, general assistance, and energy assistance.”
This bill is particularly significant given the recent instances of police brutality in Minnesota, and the protests that have emerged around them. On Tuesday, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. His killing last May touched off a wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the nation.
As the Minnesota Daily reported, thousands of college students participated in protests in the state after Floyd's death, and some University of Minnesota students are still awaiting their court date after being arrested for protesting in November.
And last Sunday, a Brooklyn Center police officer killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, prompting further protests and arrests of students in the area.
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke out against the bill shortly after it was introduced, saying that protesting is fundamental to the nature of this country.
“This particular provision (the bill) is created because, whether you want to say it or not, it's created because there is a particular annoyance we have with a particular group of people who have decided to organize themselves because they are tired of being invisible and tired of being ignored,” Omar said.
The bill in Indiana mirrors the one Republican lawmakers put forward in Minnesota. It would prevent people convicted of protest-related crimes from tapping into unemployment benefits, student loans, public health insurance, and public housing.
It would bar those convicted of being part of an unlawful assembly from holding a state or local government job as well.
Other states are following with their own anti-protest bills. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed what he called an “anti-riot” bill into law which grants civil immunity to drivers who hit protesters and shields police departments from budget cuts
Civil rights advocates say that laws are already in the books to stave off riots and that Black Lives Matter demonstrations rarely turn violent. A report late last year from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit group, indicated that the vast majority (93%) of racial justice protests were peaceful.
The Washington Post analyzed 7,305 demonstrations last year, and found that 96% of them did not lead to destruction of property or violence against police officers.
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