To MN Rep Nick Zerwas (R) on Protests

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Outraged by a proposed “crackdown on protests,” I wrote to MN Rep Nick Zerwas, who introduced a bill that would fine protesters for law enforcement costs post-protest.

Hi Rep Zerwas,

I’m writing to express dissent re: the bill you’re proposing to impose harsher sentences on protesters. I want to make sure you understand the reason people protest.
When people have strong views, views that are welcome and encouraged in a democratic society, they can voice them using the “proper” channels – writing to their representatives, speaking out on social media, composing editorials, peaceful protest, etc.
When all of these actions are taken and the lawmakers responsible for proposed changes aren’t willing to listen, stronger action must be taken.
People of color have been taking these actions and have been left completely unacknowledged by GOP members of our state and federal government bodies. As a result of this:
  • A study by the University of California, Davis professor found “evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being black, unarmed, and shot by police is about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police on average.
  • African Americans are more than twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops even after controlling for non-race based variables such as the reason the vehicle stop was initiated, but are found in possession of contraband 26% less often than white drivers.
  • According to the NAACP, African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

Given these facts, when a black man is shot inside his car during a “routine” traffic stop in our city, people are rightfully outraged. After years of not being heard, they had little choice but to take to the streets – protesting peacefully in a way that would force changemakers like you to pay attention.

Instead of listening to them, you’re choosing to find one more way to silence them. I beg you to please spend time understanding the problems they seek to address and working with them toward solutions rather than attempting to silence them with bills like these.
Democracy works when people speak out in ways that will help them be heard – so if you don’t want people rioting on highways, listen to what they have to say. I look forward to your plans to do just that.
Thanks for your time.

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