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Blurring the Lines of Legitimate Protests with Domestic Terrorism

Published by July 28, 2023

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed Act 33 in 2019, a law that criminalizes peaceful protests and protects the private property of corporations. Despite broad opposition to the bill from environmental groups to civil rights groups, Evers was tone deaf except to the singular voice of the energy industry. He may be the only Democratic governor to support this anti-democratic wave to suppress constitutional

The right-wing agenda to put a chill on legitimate, nonviolent protests has been underway for several
years. The ultimate goal is to curtail the growing number of protests against the repressive conditions
that racial capitalism has created yet expect us to suffer in silence. History is repeating itself as the U.S.
government intensifies its War on Terrorism that has slowly and not surprisingly united with the efforts
of white supremacists to target progressive social movements fighting for democracy.
Federal laws do not clearly define domestic terrorism as they have with the definition for international
terrorism. The right has taken advantage of the vagueness with its own interpretations. Our civil society
has seen the steady blurring of lines between movement activities and real-time domestic terrorists
since 9/11. We saw the first wave of laws, like the Patriot Act, be put in place under the guise of national
Rarely have we seen these laws be applied to those who really are a threat to national security. It is
reminiscent of the FBI’s view that the Black Panther Party was Public Enemy #1 which directed large
amounts of resources to kill and exile its leaders and dismantle the Party through COINTELPRO. The Klu
Klux Klan has never been dubbed with such a title despite the fact that its accepted characterization is a
white supremacist, terrorist, hate group. The government and the mainstream media has been reluctant
to call the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol an act of domestic terrorism.
Since 2015, nearly 300 anti-protest bills have been introduced in almost every state. That number
increased with the protests of George Floyd’s murder by police in 2020. In Missouri, we have beat back
the most punitive of these laws, but the legislative session is not over. Two years ago, Florida passed
HB1 which has already had a chilling impact on movement protests while shielding vigilantes and
counter-protestors against liability when they act recklessly. Republican governors will abuse their
authority to further the GOP agenda. Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency against
“unlawful assemblage.” These declarations can trigger the deployment of the National Guard against
Perhaps the most disturbing act of collaboration between reactionary forces and the government came
together with the recent filing of domestic terrorism charges against 42 Stop Cop City protestors in
Atlanta. Protestors are righteously fighting against the building of a massive 85-acre police training
facility at the cost of $90 million. Sadly, environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terá was killed
during the protests. No charges have been made in that crime.
We can expect these coordinated attacks on our right to organize, to speak out and to assemble in the
name of justice and democracy to escalate. We must not allow the government to pick off leaders or

organizations because they are not in our city or state. Or because the government has deemed them to
be outside troublemakers. To lose any ground in this fight now will be a devastating step backward as
we face more authoritarian types of laws, tactics and governance in the future.
We who believe in freedom and democracy must galvanize all sectors of our movements from attorneys
to funders. This is our reality and only we can change it by intensifying a united, coordinated campaign
against the tyrannical acts designed to criminalize and de-legitimize the resistance by progressive
organizations fighting for transformative change in the U.S.

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