Right now, the rights of protesters in the U.S. are at a critical crossroads. We are witnessing both an expansion of policies that threaten the safety of marginalized people and communities, and an uptick in repressive anti-protest measures. In response to recent legal and legislative backlash against activists, the Protect the Protest taskforce (PTP) has made the decision to expand our scope of work to include corporate and political abuses of the legal system above and beyond SLAPPs.
In the last 4 years fighting back against SLAPP suits, we have seen just how insidious these anti-protest attacks can be. SLAPPs are a systemic flaw of our legal system, presenting the wealthy and powerful with a weapon to wield against their critics. SLAPPs are not, however, the only weapon that threatens activists. The criminalization of protest, expansion of surveillance, and campus speech repression all present a troubling message from those in power. From corporations to politicians to wealthy people with an agenda, those with power are unjustly launching legal bullying attacks in new and terrifying ways. These tactics all have the same underpinnings: misusing power to intimidate and threaten dissenters in a country which explicitly guarantees a right to protest.
Importantly, these legal and legislative threats are cropping up at a time where protest itself is an urgent and necessary response to abuses of power. Amidst the ongoing battles for safety from police brutality and ecological destruction, defense of queer and trans rights, Indigenous sovereignty, abortion access, corporate accountability, and disability justice in a global pandemic, the protesters targeted by the law are, more often than not, clearly on the side of justice. If we are going to make any meaningful efforts to defend human rights, we need to expand our fight and help fill the gaps in activist defense.
Though we are still in the early stages of updating our precise work plan for the months and years ahead, we will update our members and allies along the way. We urge you to join us in the next chapter of our fight to protect the protest—the very foundation of human rights may very well depend on it.