A few weeks ago Senate Bill 469 was introduced, and it captured the attention of the nation. SB469 aims to kill the power of working people by criminalizing effective protest and undercutting funding to organizations that represent working people. We have recently learned about several other disturbing Senate Bills that seek to further destroy the rights of working Georgians, SB 508 and SB 492.
We live in a time of unprecedented wealth disparity. All over the country, unemployment, foreclosures, homelessness, and a bevy of other social concerns have driven thousands into political engagement. We are seeing a totally new section of our population rising up against injustice in their communities, and in many cases reclaiming power. Senate Bill 469, 508, and 492 seeks to dismantle not just people power, but constitutional rights, and human rights as well.
SB 469 would make it illegal to picket or protest outside of any non-government building. Those that choose to participate in a nonviolent picket could be fined $1,000 per day, and organizations that supported such actions could be fined $10,000 per day. To make matters worse anyone who is involved with planning civil disobedience actions that result in a criminal trespass charge (this is usually what the charge is for nonviolent sit-ins) would be charged with a high and aggravated misdemeanor punishable up to one year in prison.
More troubling is the origins of the Bill. The Bill was introduced by four Georgia Senators, all of whom are members of an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). To be a member of ALEC lawmakers pay $50 every two years; corporations pay $50,000 per year, and they pay thousands more for every task force they want to be on(there’s nine different task forces).
One of the things that happens at these conferences is that law makers and corporations draft model legislation, corporations then pick their favorite drafts and lawmakers go home and introduce the corporate approved legislation. One in five pieces of ALEC drafted legislation gets passed.
Senate Bill 469 is the worst kind of ALEC legislation, and a sad example of Georgia lawmakers putting the needs of corporations above the needs of the people.
Though out history there have been visionaries who are called to confront, nonviolently, powerful institutions of violence, oppression, and injustice. Such actions may engage us in creative tumult and tension in the process of basic change. We seek opportunities to help reconcile conflict and to facilitate a peaceful and just resolution of conflict. This approach to social change must not be criminalized.