Republicans in the Michigan House voted late Wednesday to make it easier for courts to shut down “mass picketing” demonstrations and fine protesters who block entrances to businesses, private residences or roadways.
Under the legislation, which Democrats decried as unconstitutional prior to the 57-50 vote, individuals who return to a disruptive demonstration already blocked by a court could face fines of up to $1,000 a day. Unions or other organizing groups could be fined up to $10,000 each day.
Michigan law already prohibits certain forms of mass picketing, but sponsoring Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, said a spate of recent incidents make it apparent that “the current penalties are not sufficient to deter already-illegal activity.”
He noted reports that 39 people were arrested last month outside a Detroit McDonald’s “for blocking the entrance and preventing them from being able to conduct their business” during a protest against low wages. Glenn also cited an environmental protest outside the Midland home of Attorney General Bill Schuette in July.
Expect this on the national agenda for Republicans in the next year. In the pre-New Deal era, conservatives relied upon injunctions and anti-protest laws to sweep away pesky opposition to their total control over the state. As the New Gilded Age sets in, it’s hardly surprising that conservatives would use similar tools to a century ago. The extent to which we will resist this is going to say a lot as to how effective such laws will be. I am not overly confident, unless each of you pledges to be on the front lines of resistance in the next 4 years.