Over the past year, there have been numerous anti-government protests across the nation, and though I have been highly critical of some of the movements, I none the less support the right for them to petition their government.
Well, it appears that Senator Margaret Dayton (R – Orem – District 15) doesn’t feel the same way. Her bill, SB 33, Trespassing on State Lands is a knee jerk reaction to the protests we have seen because these groups had the gall to peaceably assemble to protest the government.
The bill says, in no uncertain terms, that it is a misdemeanor for a person to camp on state land for more than 15 days. Now, at first, I knew this bill didn’t pass the smell test, but I couldn’t quite figure out why; then it hit me – the capitol building also counts as state land.
Ha ha! Remember how those pesky protesters would not go away in at the Wisconsin State House? How they demanded to be heard after they disagreed with the decisions of policy makers? Remember how those pesky protesters couldn’t just be thrown into jail because they weren’t, you know, breaking the law? Furthermore, remember how they have something called a “1st Amendment Right” to be there? Well, thankfully, Dayton is trying to at least make sure that they are breaking the law in the short term so that lawmakers won’t have to deal with upset people when they are trying to pass laws behind closed doors.
Interestingly, I noticed that Idaho is attempting to pass a similar law in their state. Near as I can tell, their most conservative lawmakers too feel that this is all-of-a-sudden an issue for them as well. I am sure, however, that this is all just a coincidence, and not that there is a national conservative organization of lawmakers that get together to discuss what bills they feel must be passed right away.
These random lawmakers all have similar talking points – namely that cities have these types of laws, why not states? I say the main difference is that trespassing laws are inherently city and township issues, because cities and towns are primarily the government entities who have do deal with the issues of trespassing. Furthermore, cities have mechanisms in place specifically designed to avoid infringing on First Amendment rights – this is why, for example, Occupy Salt Lake was able to camp at Pioneer Park overnight…for many nights. This bill conveniently forgets to add such mechanisms; but I am sure that this was just an oversight.
This is a terrible bill born out of conservative lawmakers fears that they might actually be called out on the work they do. I am sure, at some point, someone will get arrested on this very issue, and that the state will be drawn into a long and messy court battle. Dayton will of course gleefully take us down this road because she just hates those filthy hippies sooooooo much.
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