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Government & Politics

Demonstrators Speak Out Against Anti-Protest Legislation

pictures of a protestor holding a sign
ANDY CHOW
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
Protestors outside a House committee room in the Ohio Statehouse.

A bill to strengthen penalties for demonstrators who cause damage while protesting is creating, fittingly enough, protest. 

About two dozen people from environmental, anti-poverty and religious groups interrupted a House committee meeting with these chants.

Joan Van Becelaere with Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio says increased penalties for damage that occurs while protesting at places like oil and gas pipelines can hamper their free speech.

"Raising our voices, saying our words, actually can create energy. And it actually has been known to change hearts and minds."

pictures of protestors
Credit ANDY CHOW / STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
Protestors outside a House committee room in the Ohio Statehouse

Supporters of the bill, SB 33, stress that it's only about preventing damage at critical infrastructure and that it doesn't hamper a person's ability to exercise their freedom to "protest peacefully."

The bill adds a new prohibition under the offense of “criminal mischief” that expressly prohibits a person, without privilege to do so, from knowingly destroying or improperly tampering with a “critical infrastructure facility.”