When it comes to balancing business interests and democratic debate, Republicans are once again erring on the side of profit. Even after a nationwide backlash, one Republican senator in Washington state is still pushing forward legislation that imposes mandatory sentencing requirements on those engaged in certain First Amendment activities.
Washington Sen. Doug Ericksen first introduced a bill equating certain forms of protest to “economic terrorism”. Apparently the senator didn’t like the public response that followed, so he wrote up a toned down version, which was pre-filed last month and sits waiting to be introduced in the state senate.
Despite the calmer rhetorical portion of the bill, Sen. Ericksen’s proposal would impose mandatory 60-day to one-year prison terms for citizens who, as Erickson puts it, “cause an economic disruption,” in the course of protest. This is quite relevant in Mr. Ericksen’s home state, where a group of protestors summoned the courage to physically barricade a train they thought was carrying fracking sand. Eventually, the protesters were persuaded by police to move and let the train pass, but not after they managed to generate attention and conversation about an issue they felt was important enough to risk life, liberty and limb for.
Of course, there are already laws in place protecting the course of business. The protestors certainly were prepared to trespass in order to block a train. Adding redundant laws, calling the act economic terrorism, then removing the word terrorism, only serves to charge up the senator’s base of couch potatoes who prioritize corporate returns and Gross Domestic Product over freedom of speech.
Lord, never mind the marketplace of ideas, for if the senator’s business buddies can’t get their sand on time our great nation must fall to the hands of justice.
We can’t fail to mention that Mr. Ericksen had the audacity to also include the following lip service in his bill:
“The legislature recognizes and fully supports the ability of individuals to exercise their rights of free speech, press, and peaceful assembly, and to engage in other constitutionally protected activities. The legislature finds, however, that there is no right to harm another person or prevent another person from exercising his or her rights.”
In this paragraph, the senator eloquently sums up the insanity that his bill rides on. In one breath, Mr. Ericksen’s bill “recognizes” free speech rights, but only insofar as nobody else is in any way prevented from making more money by engaging in potentially controversial economic activity, regardless of how that activity might impact others.
While GOP President-elect Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ericksen eagerly supported) has promised to take care of middle-class Americans, the rest of the Grandfatherly Old Party is plying ahead with its long held policy of plowing ahead with corporate favoritism, no matter who or what gets run over in the process.
Mr. Ericksen’s legislative assistant did not return a phone call Friday requesting comment on the updated version of the bill.