Peaceful protest is a hallmark of our democracy—that no matter our race, religion, gender, age, socioeconomic status or political affiliation, we have the right to give public voice to our concerns, to oppose our government’s actions, and support the ideals that are close to our hearts.
Yet today, freedom of assembly is at serious risk, as state legislatures across the country seek to take away this fundamental right and silence the voices of the people.
And the Piper Fund is responding, through a pooled rapid response fund that is protecting the Right to Protest.
Since 2017, over 60 bills have been introduced in 31 states to disincentivize protest, with policies ranging from dramatically increased civil fines for protestors and increased criminal penalties for specific forms of protest, and even for organizations and individuals supporting protest.
These bills have disproportionately targeted communities of color and other marginalized communities. For example, bills raising criminal penalties for protesting on highways have targeted the Movement for Black Lives; bills preventing protest at “critical infrastructure” sites have targeted pipeline protestors, including Native American communities; and so-called “Campus Free Speech Bills” have targeted student movements against white supremacy. Already, bills have passed in several states.
In response, in late 2017, the Piper Fund established a rapid response fund to support the right to protest. In a moment in which disenfranchised communities are relying upon protest as a critical form of resistance to oppressive government policies, maintaining this right is critical. If not stopped, these bills will hinder any and all groups seeking to demand racial justice, women’s rights, health care, economic justice—indeed across the spectrum of communities’ concerns.
Already, Piper’s Rapid Response Fund has supported critical work to protect the right to protest, including:
- Grants to organizations in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to conduct public education, engage their communities, and advocate for freedom of assembly;
- Hands-on support to organizations in those states and beyond, to help advocates develop messaging and learn from one another as to best practices to engage their communities;
- Messaging research to help advocates hone their communications strategies, as well as organizing a webinar series for public education about this issue;
- The development of a national network that provides support to state groups and works collaboratively to protect this fundamental Constitutional right.