OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Activists are expressing concern after the governor signed HB 1643, an anti-doxing bill.
One attorney say the bill’s broad language could include filming police, and he says criminalizing that would be a violation of the First Amendment.
“My concern with the bill is it could possibly infringe on individuals’ right to engage in core political speech,” attorney Bob Jackson said.
He says posting things like addresses or financial information with intent to harm could be an issue but simply posting names or videos of officers on duty is protected by the First Amendment.
“The right to free speech doesn’t extend to harassing or annoying or threatening some same public officials so there is a difference there,” Jackson said.
Activist group CAIR- Oklahoma says they’re not ruling out legal action. They say if this law was in effect in Minnesota, the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial could’ve been very different.
“With this bill, that person who took the video, could be the one in jail today rather than Derek Chauvin,” Lani Habrock, government affairs director for CAIR, said.
“Here there could be a concern if public officials construe the posting of such videos as an effort to harass or annoy those same officers,” Jackson said.
One of the bill’s authors, Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane), says the intent of the bill is solely to protect law enforcement from having their personal information online.
“With any bill, there’s always consequences maybe you don’t intend, so it’s definitely not the intention that we should not hold our police officers accountable,” he said.
He says the wording can be revisited.
“I think if legislators think there are some problems with any language, we may have to come back next year and see if there’s something we need to work on,” he said.
For now, activists are concerned.
“I would say this bill is at best, tone deaf, and at worst, a violation of public safety, and free speech,” Habrock said.
“I don’t see any of that. What we’re saying is you cannot with the intent to cause harm and do criminal behavior, put their address, their family’s address, so it’s what your intentions are,” Humphrey said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt released the following statement:
“I am proud to support law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep Oklahoma communities safe, and as governor I will do everything I can to protect them and their families from intentional, targeted threats and harassment.”Gov. Kevin Stitt
The ACLU released the following statement in response to this bill and another one allowing drivers to run over protesters if they feel threatened.
“The ACLU of Oklahoma has long fought to protect the First Amendment right to assemble and hold those in power accountable through protest. With the stroke of a pen, Governor Stitt has decided to stand on the wrong side of history and threaten one of the most fundamental rights of our democracy. Throughout the 58th Oklahoma Legislative Session, we have seen politicians at the Oklahoma Capitol push agendas that chill free speech and infringe on the rights of protesters. And we know this is just the beginning in a lengthy list of legislation aimed at communities who took to the streets to make their voices heard in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Just this week at the legislature we witnessed an inequity in response, as white militants gathering were met with cordiality and protesters of color were met with near-physical confrontation and beefed-up law enforcement presence. People protesting police violence should not face more police violence. The ACLU of Oklahoma along with organizers on the ground are in a fight to end the systemic violence inflicted on our Black and Brown communities, and our government’s escalating attacks on protests against racism and police brutality should concern everyone. We are in serious conversations with partners on our next steps to protect Oklahomans’ right to free speech. The power of protest belongs with the people, and we will not tolerate these attempts to silence Oklahomans.”