State Senator Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) takes much offense when his Senate Bill 66 is oversimplified as some racially challenged attempt to make it cool to drive your car over Black Lives Matter protesters should they inconvenience you.
He's right: It's a hell of a lot worse than that.
Brattin's pile of legislative excreta is a collection of outrageous new measures — some surely unconstitutional — that reflect nothing less than an all-out war on people protesting against racial injustice. It doesn't quite go as far as to mention Black people by race specifically, but it might as well be titled the "We'll Show Them Whose Lives Really Matter" law.
Senate Bill 66 deserves note for the sheer majesty of its prejudice and fanaticism. It navigates the full spectrum of right-wing grievance regarding the BLM movement. Well beyond the aforementioned right to drive over protesters, it covers monument defacing, traffic blocking, hurting others' feelings while protesting and even a section penalizing localities for cutting police budgets too much. This is Jim Crow if he played in the steroid era.
Among its un-American sections, the bill would make it a Class B felony to vandalize "any public monument or structure on public property owned or operated by a public entity." For perspective, damaging a monument would now carry the same penalty as voluntary manslaughter or first-degree domestic assault (attempting to kill one's spouse but failing to inflict serious harm). That would be five to fifteen years in prison.
The bill would create a new crime know as "the offense of rioting." One would "commit the offense of rioting if he or she knowingly assembled with six or more people to violate any state or federal laws." Let your imagination run with that.
And just in case those conspiracy theories about George Soros pan out, "this act creates the offense of conspiring with others to cause or produce a riot or unlawful assembly. A person commits such offense if he or she knowingly provides payment or other financial incentive to six or more persons to violate the Missouri laws against rioting or unlawful assembly. This offense shall be a Class E felony."
It also "provides that a person may use deadly force against another person if such force is used against a person who is participating in an unlawful assembly and unlawfully enters or attempts to enter private property that is owned or leased by an individual." Just in case that Castle Doctrine wasn't clear enough.
Of course, there's no need to restrict the attack on BLM to protecting one's own property. There's also this: "This act creates the offense of unlawful traffic interference if, with the intention to impede vehicular traffic, the person walks, stands, sits, kneels, lays, or places an object in a manner that blocks passage by a vehicle on any public street, highway, or interstate highway. This offense is a Class E felony."
For snowflakes who might get verbally accosted by BLM protesters, there's a comforting, new protection: "This act provides that a person commits the offense of harassment in the second degree if he or she engages in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person, including if such person causes emotional distress to another person while participating in an unlawful assembly."
Get the point? The initial headlines greeting the bill indeed have focused on its proposed new Right to Mow (not coincidentally part of a national trend, by the way). Brattin has responded hotly to the attention by claiming it's all caused by "very deceptive, horrible" media coverage.
In his tirade, Brattin doesn't make any secret about what motivated him to bring forward this gem: "We've seen all over the nation the uprisings and the unrest and the lawlessness that has occurred and this bill is an attempt to extinguish that kind of behavior and defunding of the police, unlawful assembly and criminalizes those who want to stop traffic."
Brattin claims the bill is only designed to help those "who are literally being attacked by violent criminals who are trying to break into their cars and drag them out of them to drive out of that situation." That all sounds reasonable enough, but not a word of any such language is in the actual bill.
Perhaps Brattin needs to have someone read it to him. Here's what is says: "Any person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle shall not be liable for any damages if, at the time of the injury, the person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care; and the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any act or omission of the person operating the motor vehicle that constitutes gross negligence."
Brattin's rant is available at the official state Senate website.
Even by the warped standards of the Missouri General Assembly, this bill is something special. Perhaps it will come as no surprise that it's consistent with Brattin's eight-year body of work as a wingnut state legislator.
In 2017, Brattin, who hails from Harrisonville, about 40 miles southeast of Kansas City, was called out in a Kansas City Star editorial for saying the following: "When one looks at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Qur'an, or other religions, there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being."
The Star wasn't impressed, noting also that Brattin's greatest hits included these: "He has sought an equal footing for teaching creationism in public schools.
He proposed requiring the father's consent before an abortion except in cases of "legitimate rape." He suggested college football players who refuse to play for political reasons should lose their scholarships."
That was almost four years ago. I didn't bother to check what he's done since, other than that he was churning out election-fraud conspiracies as recently as a week before the Capitol insurrection.
Strangely, nothing in Senate Bill 66 seems an affront to right-wing protesters, who presumably would be justified in exercising their Second Amendment rights by blowing away any BLM type who even seemed to be thinking about driving their car toward them. In fairness, that's not part of Senate Bill 66, but might as well be.
During the olive-branch portion of Brattin's audio rant he said laws are needed "that do protect good citizens AND actual, peaceful protesters."
Apparently, we wouldn't want to get the two groups confused.
Not in Rick Brattin's perfect world, which seems to be a rather scary place.
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).