GOP lawmaker responds to climate demonstrations by trying to punish protesters


Rep. Jim Banks wants Congress to force those arrested at D.C. protests to pay for police overtime, among other things.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) announced on Tuesday that he would introduce a law to crack down on protesters in the nation's capital, after climate change protesters shut down several streets in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

"In response to today's #ShutDownDC, I will be working on introducing a bill that would force protesters arrested at demonstrations in D.C. to pay for police overtime and other fees related to the action," Banks tweeted.

Protesters took to the streets in Washington this week to call attention to climate change, and attempted to block more than 30 intersections near "climate criminals" such as oil companies and lobbyists who work on behalf of oil companies, according to the Washington Post.

Banks' proposed legislation would force anyone who is arrested at a non-permitted protest and convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony to pay a fine to cover the cost of law enforcement overtime. Banks claimed his law would not impact protests that have permits, such as the annual anti-abortion March for Life or the annual Women's March, although it is unclear if those protesters could be fined if they are not in the area allowed by said permit.

Banks claimed his reason for squelching demonstrations was related to financial concerns.

"Washington, D.C., collects over $4 billion in federal funding. Hoosier taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for illegal protests — it is a violation of their 1st Amendment rights."

Banks' comments ignore the fact that his home state of Indiana receives 17 times as much funding ($67.8 billion) from the federal government, as well as the fact that D.C. residents have no control over how or where such funds are spent.

Banks also fails to note that the overwhelming majority of funding for D.C.'s metro police department comes from local taxes. In fact, in 2018, $503.7 million of the department's budget came from local revenues, while just 1% ($6 million) came from federal funds.

On his campaign website, Banks claims he is dedicated to "restor[ing] federalism and enhanc[ing] the power of state governments." Yet when it comes to the affairs of D.C., the Indiana congressman appears to have no such qualms.

Unpermitted protests have historically pushed forward social change in the United States. Many of Banks's fellow Republicans in Congress themselves praised the Boston Tea Party, a non-permitted act of protest with the sole intent of destroying private property, and one of the seminal moments leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.