Bill Introduced That Would Make Arrested Protesters Pay Police Overtime, Gov't Expenses

from the rack-up-all-the-overtime-and-arrests-you-want,-guys! dept

When faced with First Amendment activity they don’t care for, some legislators attempt to gerrymander this right until it only contains the speech they like. This can take the form of cyberbullying bills, hate speech legislation, and, lately, anti-protesting laws.

The problem with these efforts is they routinely run afoul of the Constitution. Some do better than others trying to stay within the confines of what can actually be controlled by the government, but in most cases, the proposed laws are badly-written rush jobs attempting to paper over the current issue du jour.

Another anti-protesting law is in the works, prompted by oil pipeline demonstrations both in North Dakota and, closer to home, in the district of the state rep introducing the bill, Scott Martin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Under the terms of the bill, “a person is responsible for public safety response costs incurred by a State agency or political subdivision as a result of the State agency’s or political subdivision’s response to a demonstration if, in connection with the demonstration, the person is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense.”

In other words, they could be on the hook for costs, such as police overtime, medical or emergency response, or other basic public services associated with protests. Whatever felony or misdemeanor offense the protester was convicted of would come with its own independent penalty.

Because the state’s laws concerning damage to property and the usual assortment of rioting-related charges apparently isn’t enough to deter people from complaining about stuff in Martin’s district, a new law must be put in place to hold demonstrators responsible for the actions of others, as well as anything the state might want to add to the final post-protest invoice.

The bill cites — in support of its First Amendment-chilling efforts — the millions of dollars spent by government agencies in response to the Dakota Pipeline protests. It’s a slick move, one that might convince more bottom-line-oriented legislators to hop aboard despite the obvious Constitutional implications.

In practice, this law could saddle someone picked up during a protest for blocking a sidewalk (a misdemeanor) with a sizable chunk of the costs incurred by the government during the protest. This will discourage most people from showing support for any controversial cause or, indeed, for any cause at all. Any protest of any size will result in additional expenditures by government agencies, all of which can now be passed on directly to the protest’s participants.

And it won’t be spread evenly among participants. The costs will be borne only by those arrested, which creates an incentive to arrest as many protesters as possible to offset projected expenses. This, in turn, will push prosecutors towards ensuring even the most bullshittiest of charges sticks, as they’ll have to answer to lawmakers waving ledger books filled with red ink if they don’t.

Sure, this bill won’t survive a Constitutional challenge, but someone’s going to have to spend their own money to correct the Pennsylvania government’s error. Hopefully, the bill will get laughed out of the legislature immediately — especially since Rep. Martin’s intentions may be less than honorable.

DeSmog Blog notes that Martin has close ties to pipeline lobbyists. Prior to joining the Pennsylvania Senate, Martin worked for a firm called Community Networking Strategies. CNS is a subsidiary of the lobbying firm, McNees, Wallace & Nurick — which lobbies for Gulf Oil Ltd, Industrial Energy Consumers of Pennsylvania, and Sunoco Logistics.

If it does somehow become law, it will be a statewide embarrassment and a vehicle for government abuse. And it will give the state the ability to rob Peter twice to pay Officer Paul’s protest-related overtime.

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Comments on “Bill Introduced That Would Make Arrested Protesters Pay Police Overtime, Gov't Expenses”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We’re going to make it harder for citizens to express their opinions.
Citizens should demand an amendment holding the legislators who voted for the project personally liable for clean-up/fix costs.

They’ll scream about how that isn’t fair, and one just needs to point out that if you are going to suppress the publics right to protest you better have some skin in the game as well.

We have “pet” legislators who have passed laws to protect companies from having their dirty laundry exposed. Oh you took a photo of us processing a very sick cow in violation of the law, well you’ll go to prison for exposing a health risk because you lied to expose our wrongdoing.

Dakota pipeline is an interesting case as they paid money to bring in mercenaries from private companies & were doing deep dives into the protesters looking for ways to crack them.

Of course they wouldn’t have protested the pipeline if they had stayed on the original path that didn’t have to cross the river… but that went by white folk who didn’t want it near them in case bad things happened.

It’s a pity there isn’t a law on the books that removes state reps who propose these sorts of unconstitutional bills for failure to understand the responsibilities that go with the job.

Daydream says:

Re: I'm too tired to search and rhetoric, could someone do my post for me?

If you do, could you include the following things?

-Reference to this article.
-Substantiate ‘very sick cow’ allegation in comment above with a link.
-Provide links proving pattern of prosecution of whistleblowers.
-Provide links demonstrating gross mistreatment of civil disobedients/protestors.
-Link to articles about; current prison conditions in America, lack of legal support for the accused, loss of income/employment for victims of the ‘legal’ system.
-Link to stories about gross abuses of asset forfeiture, murders committed by police, and other misconduct for which the police were not prosecuted.
-Link to stories about big corporations violating the law, abusing legal processes, etc, without being prosecuted.
-Tie it all together with a statement about how these groups with money and weapons regularly steal from and assault the common people, killing and/or enslaving those who disobey or resist.
-Quote or link the definition of chattel slavery, compare formal definition to above evidence to substantiate a match.
-End with snarky comment (e.g. ‘What Thirteenth Amendment?’), and/or demand for violent revolution.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Given that Tom Wolf is still governor of PA, I highly doubt that the PA bill will pass. I’d be very shocked if he signed it given that the GOP is normally the ones who support these anti-protester laws, and Wolf is a Democrat.

But that doesn’t change how absurd and draconian this proposal is, and how shocking it is that these 7 legislators would even consider it for a moment.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The equipment is free, but it can be extremely expensive to operate and maintain. A Bearcat spare tire is $5K. Helicopters cost at least a few hundred an hour, up to $1K.

Once you can pass the cost to someone else, there is a strong incentive to move every expense in the operating cost column. For instance leasing the equipment instead of purchasing, and have the lease contract include training.

Anonymous Coward says:

so more privacy and freedom being destroyed, not just removed! and those involved in instigating this bill are supposed to be there to look after the people and their rights, not help turn the USA into a police state, or something other than ‘Land of the Free’ even quicker! what the hell is wrong with these politicians? is becoming more like China, Iraq or N Korea etc so important, particularly when those countries are constantly condemned? makes no sense!!

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It could be similar to demanding money ahead of time for a permitted event. Depends on what kind of event and how the event was organized. There are all manner of events where paid police security has always been normal.

On the dissimilar side, no it isn’t like police picked out some people at one of that dood’s events, beat the crap out of them, made up charges, then asked them retroactively to pay for any police presence.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Milo

Berkley and the police wanted to charge Milo for extra
> security when he was supposed to speak. Isn’t that about
> the same issue as this?

It very much is, but Milo is a conservative, so attempts to chill his speech don’t get nearly the coverage and sympathy in the media and elsewhere as attempts to limit leftist speech do.

(E.g., Did TechDirt write a pearl-clutching article over Berkeley’s attempt to hang the cost of protests on the person being protested? The archive search says no.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Interviewer: Nevertheless, Mr. Helpmann, there are those who maintain that the Ministry of Information has become too large and unwieldy…And the cost of it all, Deputy Minister? Seven percent of the gross national product.

Mr. Helpmann: I understand this concern on behalf of the tax payers. People want value for money. That’s why we always insist on the principle of Information Retrieval charges. It’s absolutely right and fair that those found guilty should pay for their periods of detention and for the Information Retrieval Procedures used in their interrogation.


btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Please explain how DACA is unconstitutional.

Easy. It was enacted by the president (Obama) via memo, not even an executive order, which usurped the powers of the Legislative Branch. In other words, the president doesn’t have the power to enact things like DACA all by himself. That’s what we have Congress for. Per the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

In my state, there’s already a generic law that someone convicted of a crime shall pay “The necessary disbursements and fees of officers allowed by law and incurred in connection with the arrest, preliminary examination and trial of the defendant”, among other things.

Of course, that doesn’t allow the state to bill you for the fact that the officer was at the demonstration in the first place. If one person gets arrested at a large demonstration, it is ridiculous for that one person to bear the costs of the entire police presence.

Anonymous Coward says:

When the right to free speech is infringed by the government, what do the politicians think will happen next? Do they think everyone will simply stfu and do as they’re told? LOL – I doubt it. I think they are trying to start a civil war and it will not take much more in order to accomplish their goal of martial law.

Charging money for exercising one’s rights is infringement of that right, it is a violation of the constitution, it is slap in the face of all who fought for this country and it is an insult to all citizens.

I’m sure they have some very twisted pretzel logic to explain why this is copacetic and how this makes them very patriotic. Think I’ll go toss my cookies now.

Oblate (profile) says:

Why bother not protesting?

If this passes I suspect the police in PA will just start arresting affluent-looking people who happen to be near protests, just to help foot the bill.

The bill doesn’t seem to address the issue of how much of the bill would be charged- if there are 500 people there, and 10 are charged (and of course found guilty) would each person found guilty of something be charged 1/500 or 1/10 of the costs? Or am I optimistic in thinking that they wouldn’t each be charged 100% of the costs?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They already do that, minus the ‘arrest’ part, this would just give them another way to do it.

"That looks like some mighty suspicious money there, I’ll be taking that unless you want to jump through a system designed to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to demonstrate that it is not in fact ‘criminal money’."

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They already do that. Traffic tickets for meaningless offenses have been a staple of funding for local police departments for decades. This just expands the pool a bit to add those who run their months to those who drive a bit over the limit or fail to signal when changing lanes.

I think most people would support making those nasty Nazi’s pay or those nasty Antifa’s, or those nasty Christians, or those nasty gays, or those nasty free speech advocates, or those nasty BLMs, or those nasty… <insert group you’re affiliated with here>

That One Guy (profile) says:

Do you want violent protests? Because this is how you get violent protests

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’ -John F. Kennedy

In an attempt to prevent any protests(you may be protesting harmlessly, but someone else may go overboard and you’ll have to pay for it, so better not to go at all) such a bill would instead make people even more upset, and even more likely to turn violent as the people more more inclined for harmless demonstrations stay home, leaving the more volatile. And if they’re going to be punished for protesting anyway

zugmeister (profile) says:

I'd just like to point out...

Right now EVERYONE is paying for the extra resources required to “secure” these events. Yes, it’s quite possible your grandmother is paying for the police watching Antifa break things and set them on fire. Doesn’t it make sense that the person(s) arrested for doing something illegal at a protest bear a higher cost burden than some random taxpayer who has nothing to do with the protest?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'd just like to point out...

Does it make any sense for someone living in Alaska to pay for hurricane cleanup? They don’t ever get hurricanes so why should they be paying anything to clean up after hurricanes?

Well, does Alaska need help cleaning up from volcanos?

It’s Socialism !!!!!!11111
Oh Noes!!!!

zugmeister (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'd just like to point out...

Hurricanes and volcanic eruptions are not directly caused by the people affected by them.

OTOH, if I get arrested for breaking the law at a protest I elected to attend, it would be difficult to argue I don’t bear some responsibility for my actions.

If you choose to burn your house down, I don’t feel the urge to buy you another one. This is not “Socialism !!!111” this is called personal responsibility.

Violent protests are not the same as natural disasters. The idea they should be treated in the same way is silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I'd just like to point out...

Perhaps the point was missed, overlooked more likely.

I have a few questions that I suspect will not be answered, but – wth:

Should protesters be held financially responsible for the violent acts of others?

Is any proof of ones culpability required?

Is this third party liability on steroids?

What is the minimum distance required in order to be considered a participant in said protest?

What about the LEO funded instigators, do they also have to pay?

These questions, and many more, are unanswered and will remain so even after implementation in order to allow maximum disruption of your first amendment rights.

zugmeister (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'd just like to point out...

“Should protesters be held financially responsible for the violent acts of others? “
Categorically not! That’s why (as you seem to have missed or overlooked) they’re going after protesters who have been arrested for doing something illegal.

“Is any proof of ones culpability required?”
I’d imaging this is something the court would handle… You know, did the person arrested commit a crime. I hear that’s kinda what they’re about.

“Is this third party liability on steroids?”
Right now all taxpayers are liable for these extra costs. This puts more cost on people caught breaking the law at the protest. This is the opposite of third party liability.

“What is the minimum distance required in order to be considered a participant in said protest?”
I have no idea. Maybe you could do your own research to answer your question.

“What about the LEO funded instigators, do they also have to pay?”
Logic is awesome. That would mean the state would be paying money to… the state! If by some fluke a paid protester ended up losing some of their own money, would anyone be upset for them?

“These questions… are unanswered and will remain so…”
Well, now they’re answered and you’re welcome.

“… in order to allow maximum disruption of your first amendment rights.”
Don’t be so melodramatic. You still have free speech.
You do NOT have a right to do anything illegal, for which you might be arrested. Do you understand the difference?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'd just like to point out...

“arrested for doing something illegal.”
– arrested for not following my orders is more like it – Sorta like the nurse in SLC

Proof? You can’t handle the proof.
You can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.

Minimum distance is what I say it is mister

agent provocateurs will be “arrested” to maintain their cover but will silently be released after a good laugh with their cohorts.

Why yes – and now I will have all my answers questioned

Hello? You can be arrested for non-existent laws, if you have money you can beat the rap but you still get the free ride. Caution, it could be a bit bumpy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unintended consequences of this are ....?

Demonstrators who already are prepared for the current set of consequences are going to do what? Submit now??? I somehow think that the the elected politicians who head down these kinds of paths are painting various kinds of targets on themselves, their families and their businesses and properties. Push a people hard enough and some of them will rebel and then you got more problems on hand.

Fear is only effective for a time.

Marcy says:

Protesters held accountable

Abuse of the law can happen.
But, we also have laws to protect and give us legal recourse from this kind of abuse. We must have laws that will hold the people accountable for the damage they do to us all in these protests! So.. protest to your hearts desire, just don’t damage anyone or anything or you’ll be held accountable. And this is right and good for us all.

Protesters who follow the law and do no harm to anyone or anything, in peaceful protests (as they’re all supposed to be), have no problem and aren’t arrested. If they’re innocent and this law is abused by the state… there is legal recourse.

Unfortunately, when protesters become violent and disruptive they’re not held accountable. This invites more and more violence and disruption to manifest.

When you become aware that in MANY of these protests, some protesters are paid to protest and disrupt as much as possible… you understand that these people are not protesters, they are employees following their employers instruction. This may not be in all protests but it’s been proven that this has frequently happened in the recent past and that some of these employees of the protest are the ones doing the damage. So far no one is accountable for the damage or the cost that their bad behavior has caused to the city/state and individual. And this behavior will continue until these violent, damaging people understand that they’ll be personally accountable for the damage they do and the extra cost to our state/city! It’s about time we had this law!!!!!

You don’t want to get arrested while you protest… don’t break the law, be a peaceful protester and don’t fight or ignore instructions from Police. It’s real easy.

We all respect the right for citizens to protest. However, we’re all sick and tired of spending our private and city/state funds to clean up and replace the things destroyed by these disruptive and damaging people.

Personal accountability for one’s actions is what’s been missing all this time. Without personal accountability these protests will only continue to become more violent.

Who knows.. perhaps with some of these blaming SJ people it will cause them to look at themselves, you know, their own personal accountability- responsibility for their own lives instead of blaming everyone else.

ted says:

fake news

Subject says “Bill Introduced That Would Make Arrested Protesters Pay Police Overtime, Gov’t Expenses”

story says “Under the terms of the bill, “a person is responsible for public safety response costs … if, in connection with the demonstration, the person is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense.””

arrested is not synonymous with convicted

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