In Brief

New US laws attack right to protest

New legislation - including protecting drivers who run over demonstrators - 'at odds with human rights', says UN

wd-dakota_protest.jpg

More than 20 US states have proposed bills making protests and demonstrations more difficult in the months since President Donald Trump was elected.

Proposals include increased penalties for protesting in large groups, banning demonstrators from wearing masks and, in some states, protecting drivers who run over protesters.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the legislation as "an unprecedented level of hostility towards protesters in the 21st century."

More than 30 such bills have been introduced "amid a huge increase in activism and engagement, much of it inspired by Trump's election to the presidency", says The Guardian.

The UN has now decided to intervene in response to claims from the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild that some of the legislation is unconstitutional. It says the wave of bills are "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". 

In a letter to the US State Department, David Kaye and Maina Kiai, from the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, listed specific pieces of legislation they said were "criminalising peaceful protests".

The bills represented "a worrying trend that could result in a detrimental impact on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the country", they said.

Many of the new laws were introduced in preparations for the building of the North Dakota Access oil pipeline, which was given the green light by Trump, provoking a wave of demonstrations.

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