Bill strips right to food stamps, unemployment and medical assistance if convicted of ‘crime’ during political protest
A Black Lives Matter demonstrator (Shuttershock)

A possibly unconstitutional Minnesota bill would punish anyone convicted of a crime during a political protest by stripping them of their right to any state-funded assistance, including food stamps, student loans, medical assistance, unemployment, or rent or mortgage assistance, among other programs.

Republican state Senator David Osmek filed SF 2381, a one-page bill which reads in part: "relating to public safety; prohibiting any state loan, grant, or assistance for persons convicted of offense related to protest, demonstration, rally, civil unrest, or march." HF 466, a companion House bill, was filed by GOP Rep. Eric Lucero.

"A person convicted of a criminal offense related to the person's illegal conduct at a protest, demonstration, rally, civil unrest, or march is ineligible for any type of state loan, grant, or assistance, including but not limited to college student loans and grants, rent and mortgage assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance, unemployment benefits and other employment assistance, Minnesota supplemental aid programs, business grants, medical assistance, general assistance, and energy assistance."

The legislation could conflict with the First Amendment right to free speech, peaceful protest, and the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"The bill comes amid many arrests at protests for Daunte Wright, a young Black man killed by police last Sunday," The Minnesota Daily reports. "Thousands of college students from several universities across the Twin Cities have participated in protests against police brutality, following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Those protests have not lost much momentum over the past year, and key messages have included issues ranging from police brutality to climate change and voting rights."