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New bail rules for those accused of unlawful assembly on par with child molestation

Protesters demonstrate around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis

In response to the grassroots anti-racist movement that erupted last summer, Indiana legislators are advancing reactionary bills to stifle public dissent. Senate Bill 198 would prevent anyone arrested for being in an unlawful assembly from being bailed without a hearing in open court. This procedural burden is now reserved under Indiana law only for those charged with child molestation, solicitation, or violent crimes that result in bodily injury. Indianapolis’s Bail Project has kept low-income people out of jail and supported the anti-racist uprising locally.

During the protests in late May 2020, protesters had gathered medical equipment and water to respond to possible use of chemical weapons by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. When an impromptu march led a majority of protesters away from these stationary resources, IMPD was caught on camera stealing these supplies. Shortly after, they shot tear gas, which is prohibited from use in war, at non-violent protesters in the middle of a respiratory disease pandemic, obviating the need for protesters to bring medical supplies to counter police chemical weapons in the first place.

SB 198 would permit police to seize property used “to finance or facilitate the financing of a crime committed by a person while the person is part of an unlawful assembly.” Those who hand out food and bottled water, or those who work to protect protesters against aggressive and, in some cases, deadly counter protesters, become vulnerable to having property seized under this clause.

The bill also adds a clause that permits the state attorney general to prosecute people for “unlawful assembly” if a local prosecutor does not file charges within 180 days. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears did not file charges against 41 protesters arrested by IMPD during the summer uprisings. This clause specifically expires on January 1, 2025, just as a new administration will be entering office, preventing its use by anyone other than Todd Rokita.

Senate Bill 187 would add a new article to state law that explicitly outlines that “it is the policy of the state of Indiana . . . to withhold state support for political subdivisions (and public spaces within them) that have failed to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism.” The bill, if made law, would make it a priority for state police to investigate and prosecute those who vandalize such monuments and would jeopardize state funding access for cities or counties where the righteous anger of the people has toppled memorials to racists.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation rejects these attacks that seek to chill participation in massive, righteous demonstrations against racist police terror. We maintain the right to assemble and popularize the liberatory program the people have been demanding. While these laws seek to criminalize resistance, we know: it is right to rebel!