Skip to main content

Bill: Protesters who demonstrate illegally would have to pay for police costs

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

Protesters who take part in demonstrations that are deemed illegal would have to pay for the cost of law enforcement's response, under a bill proposed in the Minnesota House this week.

The lead author argues it would save taxpayers money – but the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota warns it could violate the right to freedom of speech.

Here's a look at the proposal, and where it is in the law-making process.

https://twitter.com/NickZerwas/status/708003141162180608

What the bill would do

Essentially, people could be held liable for public safety costs (so police or other law enforcement response) if they're convicted of participating in an unlawful assembly, being present at an unlawful assembly, or committing a public nuisance. All are misdemeanors.

State law defines unlawful assembly as when three or more people gather to commit an unlawful act, disturb or threaten public peace, or conduct themselves in a disorderly manner.

The agency could ask for related legal, administrative and court costs to be covered as well. (You can read the legislative language here.)

Rep. Zerwas: It will save taxpayers money

Rep. Nick Zerwas is the lead author, and argues it would save taxpayer money.

In a statement, the Republican from Elk River said that while the right to demonstrate is "a fundamental right and a cornerstone" of democracy, unlawful protests can result in "substantial monetary costs for taxpayers" when police, fire departments and ambulances have to respond.

During Jamar Clark-related protests outside Minneapolis' Fourth Precinct, Police Chief Janee Harteau said the department's overtime bill was $750,000. Zerwas, citing charges filed in the case, also points out that Bloomington police presence as a result of the 2014 Mall of America protest cost the city's residents an extra $25,000.

Of note: No protester in connection with either of those demonstrations has been convicted of unlawful assembly.

On Twitter, Zerwas said his bill only affects illegal activity.

"Groups that protest peacefully will be unaffected," he said.

ACLU has concerns

ACLU-Minnesota came out strongly against the proposal Friday, calling it "unconstitutional" and claiming it would "have an incredibly chilling effect on freedom of speech."

"Free speech is not reserved for those who can afford to pay any costs associated with it," the organization's release says. "Freedom of speech is for everyone, and it is unjust to expect the average Minnesotan to pay tens of thousands of dollars when exercising this right."

https://twitter.com/ACLUMN/status/708339221359140866

The ACLU statement also argues police response to recent protests – specifically Black Lives Matter demonstrations – were "over the top and unnecessary."

"Demonstrators should not be expected to pay for the overzealous law enforcement reaction."

What has to happen for it to become law

The bill was referred to the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance committee – meaning that 17-member panel has to give the bill the go-ahead before the full Republican-controlled House can vote on it.

There is not a matching bill in the DFL-controlled Senate at this point (and note the Senate and House both have to pass identical bills before the governor can sign it into law).

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-09-28 at 3.36.57 PM

Scott County attorney candidates differ on marijuana possession

Scott County is one of a few Minnesota counties where the incumbent prosecutor is facing a challenger in November.

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 10.21.38 PM

Teen charged in shooting outside of Richfield football game

Due to the age of the suspect, the case won't be made public.

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 9.05.08 AM

Twin Cities Summer Jam no more: popular festival brought to an end

The festival noted how the land they host camping on has recently been sold.

image

Expect major traffic delays on Renaissance Festival's final weekend

Scott County officials said road closures will be to blame.

Voting survey vote election

Ramsey County sends out ballots with deceased candidate on it

The county said it's addressing the issue with the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Screen Shot 2022-09-28 at 12.30.28 PM

New haunted house experience coming to Inver Grove Heights

The exhibit will feature family-friendly and 18+ events.

Wayzata High School

Niche rankings identify best Minnesota schools, districts

Eden Prairie has schools ranked in both the private and public categories.

unnamed

Walker, The Current announce end of Rock the Garden festival

The Walker Art Center and Minnesota Public Radio announced the festival will retire so the organizations can dream up new events.

Related

Protest costing Minneapolis police thousands of dollars in overtime

The cost of that overtime comes out to $43,500. The police department has also taken officers from other precincts, special operations division and strategic information center away from their daily duties to focus on protest duties.

Jesse Ventura mingles with protesters as hundreds turn out for demonstration

One of many protests across the world inspired by "Occupy Wall Street" began Friday in Minneapolis, with hundreds of demonstrators arriving downtown to occupy Government Plaza.