Opponents of state legislation that would make it a felony to harm others during permitted protests lack a clear understanding of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It guarantees that “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …”

Exactly what part of that right do those objecting to state legislation that would explicitly outlaw violence against others fail to understand?

The original Senate bill designating protests that evolve into physical attacks against others — others often being innocent victims who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — unlawful in this state lacked the support to warrant a committee vote. It prohibited the commission of other acts of mayhem as well, including blocking street traffic or torching buildings, during any legally precleared demonstration.

Its sponsors have revived the measure on the back of a House bill that successfully crossed over to the Senate.

Law-abiding citizens are that committed to its passage. Georgians in all 159 counties witnessed the nonsense and brutality that occurred in Atlanta during the height of anti-police protests last year. Firebombs flew, bystanders were injured, and property was destroyed.

Worst of all, 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was shot and killed as her mother was forced to drive around illegally placed barriers almost three weeks after the riots started. None of that constitutes or comes anywhere near any legitimate definition of a peaceful assembly.

Most everyone supports peaceful protests. In 2020, protesters in Brunswick managed to get their message across without disrupting or harming lives. Their strength and conviction were reflected well in their sheer numbers.

Georgia Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican, feels all protests should be conducted in the proper light of the U.S. Constitution. His Senate Bill 171 would have written the requirement into state law, but the measure lost wind in the Senate Judiciary Committee for lack of a vote.

A few nameless committee members refused to show their hand and for good reason. No one in their myopic political mind would want constituents at home to know they honestly consider the destruction of lives and property valid under the protection of the “peaceably assemble” clause of the U.S. Constitution.

State Senate and House members have an opportunity to extend real constitutional protections to innocent people by supporting and voting for this legislation.

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