Many of the states’ legislation shares language drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a rightwing group backed by fossil fuel companies.
In Florida, South Dakota and Oklahoma, for example, a “riot” is considered to be any unauthorized action by three or more people, while in Florida, Oklahoma and Iowa drivers who injure protestors blocking traffic, a common tactic used by environmental activists, are given legal immunity.
In Arkansas, an “act of terrorism” is considered to be anything that causes “substantial damage” to a public “monument”, which could include graffiti. Across 17 Republican-controlled states, protesters face up to 10 years in prison and million-dollar fines for offences.
The broad application of these laws, as well as accompanying legislation that criminalize people and organizations that support allegedly dangerous protestors, “chill activism and make it riskier for people to be involved in their right to protest”, said Page.