Last week, the Ohio Democratic Party hosted a virtual press conference as Ohioans speak out against anti-protest legislation being pushed through the legislature by Ohio Republicans. GOP politicians have introduced a number of bills that would chip away at one of Ohioans’ most fundamental rights: the right to free speech.
“When I was on the campaign trail, I definitely did not think Ohio would try to make it a crime to protest — something as American as apple pie — but that is exactly what is happening right now at the Statehouse,” said State Representative Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland).
“The right of assembly and free speech is guaranteed in our Constitution. In the history of America — all social justice issues have found their beginnings in the streets and today we see protests playing a critical role in the fight for racial justice. But right now, statehouse Republicans are playing politics with Ohioans’ right to protest,” said State Representative David Leland (D-Columbus).
“These regressive measures will only create more low-level felons. This is a solution looking for a problem. Citizens should always have the right to respectfully question and challenge actions that are excessive and abusive. Lawmakers must cease and desist attempts to strip away rights that are
protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution,” said Cincinnati NAACP President Joe Mallory.
Legislation proposed by Ohio Republicans would:
• Create new crimes and penalties for Ohioans who are protesting, using broad language to define what constitutes a crime.
• Make Ohio organizations financially responsible for ‘providing support’ to a protest in which any damage occurs, even if that damage is temporary or independent of the organized protest.
• Add unnecessary burdens onto Ohioans and Ohio organizations who want to exercise their right to free speech.
Organizations across Ohio from all political backgrounds have spoken out against these efforts, especially in light of ongoing protests in the fight for racial justice.