The House completed action today on Sen. Trent Garner’s SB 522, intended to discourage “mass picketing,” a piece of legislation similar to many being passed by Republicans lawmakers nationwide to tamp down political demonstrations. The vote was 58-22.
Rep. Bob Ballinger insisted 1st Amendment rights would not be infringed — the bill even says so. What the bill says and what law enforcement officers might do when faced with, for example, an unexpectedly large turnout of protesters that might obstruct what an officer believes is “free use” of a roadway, are two potentially very different things.
Look, too, at Garner’s definition of unlawful obstruction of a private residence. That could, by definition, include “intimidation communicated near or contiguous to the private residence.” What does THAT mean? What if a thousand or so people gathered a block from Trent Garner’s residence and said they didn’t much like his lawmaking or that of his employer, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton? Intimidating? Near? Maybe if you’re not a big fan of robust 1st Amendment speech and assembly.