By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
A draft bill planned for the Alabama Legislature could make it a crime to protest outside private residences.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said watching news coverage of recent pro-choice advocates’ protests outside U.S. Supreme Court justices’ homes made him aware of a gap in Alabama law. His bill would allow state law enforcement to respond to protests if local law enforcement did not.
“This would give the state the ability in a very politically charged environment to be able to keep order,” Orr told Alabama Daily News on Thursday. He plans to file the bill in the 2023 legislative session that begins in March.
A draft bill says “no person shall picket or protest before or near a residence occupied or used by any individual with the intent to harass, intimidate or disturb that individual or other individuals who reside at that residence.”
The penalty for violating the proposed law is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable with up to three months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Second or subsequent violation would be Class B misdemeanors. The law could be enforced by local or state law enforcement officers. Officers would command protestors to disperse before making arrests.
See the full draft bill HERE: DRAFT ORR PROTEST BILL
Orr said technology and social media has made it easier to find peoples’ home addresses and organize protests, potentially creating nuisance and safety issues.
The law would apply to any private home, not just public officials’. The bill also says counties and municipalities can adopt ordinances limiting the time frame and noise levels of protests in residential neighborhoods. Violations of those ordinances would face the same penalties.
A similar bill was signed into law in Florida recently by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Just seeing what’s happening with these justices and the neighborhoods where they live … this gives the state and the locals the ability to intervene if need be,” Orr said.
He said he thinks the law change is needed because of the current politically charged environment.
“It’s close to toxic, with the vitriol among some people on both sides of the spectrum,” Orr said.
In late 2019, some demonstrators were briefly outside the Montgomery home of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. They were protesting the attorney general taking over the investigation of a fatal officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover. After speaking with local law enforcement, the protestors left, according to media reports.