Bill to increase penalties for unlawful protests in Iowa passes

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:30 AM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) - A new bill to increase penalties for unlawful protests in Iowa will move forward to the House.

Senate File 534 increases penalties for assaulting police officers, rioting, or unlawful assembly. It passed through the Senate last night on a strict party-line vote.

KCCI reports the bill also makes blocking streets or highways a misdemeanor and requires those arrested for certain crimes to be held in jail for at least 24-hours.

One amendment adds penalties for people who bring objects to fight crowd control measures.

Republican proponents of the bill say they hope to decrease violence at protests.

“No one in this chamber here or legislature wants to prevent a peaceful assembly, but what we saw this last summer is that there are clearly nefarious actors out there who do not care about having a peaceful assembly and go there to cause havoc,” Sen. Dan Dawson said.

The ‘Des Moines Black Liberation Movement’ says they feel targeted by lawmakers.

One provision in the bill gives drivers who hit protesters who are unlawfully blocking roads civil immunity unless they engage with “reckless or willful misconduct.”

“Every time we organize, and we advocate on the streets, we are rooted in nonviolence, think that putting language in here telling people that it’s OK to hit nonviolent protesters with your car just because they are slightly inconvenient to you is violent, and it is encouraging violence,” Jaylen Cavil, with Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, said.

He says lawmakers should focus on racial justice issues instead.

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