Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, October 2, 2002


Page 4


Davis Vetoes Bill to Reduce Penalties for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Gov. Gray Davis has vetoed a bill that would have significantly reduced penalties for non-violent civil disobedience.

“Civil disobedience has played a critical role in this country’s great movements for social change,” the governor acknowledged in his veto message late Sunday. But Senate Bill 1796 is objectionable, he said, because it would apply too broadly, and could potentially increase the cost of government by leading to an increasing number of jury trials and appeals.

The proposed legislation, by Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, was labeled the “Just Dissent” bill by its backers, including the ACLU of Southern California and several labor unions.

It drew late-organizing opposition from law enforcement groups, and passed the Senate in its final form by a vote of 22 to 12, and the Assembly by 45 to 31.

It would have provided a maximum sentence of two days in jail and/or a $100 fine for any misdemeanor involving “political expression,” so long as the defendant did not threaten or cause violence, or prevent or attempt to prevent any person from attending a religious service or obtaining medical assistance, unless “extraordinary aggravating circumstances” were present.

“Political expression,” according to the bill, includes “any oral or written statements or nonviolent symbolic actions made for the purpose of influencing public opinion on matters of general interest to society, including, but not limited to, the enactment or repeal of laws, the election or removal from office of public officials, or the support of or opposition to court decisions or other public policy matters.”

In his veto message, the governor expressed concern at the prospect of creating “multiple avenues for post-conviction appeals on the issue of what is ‘politically motivated.’”

Davis wrote:

“Politically motivated protests and demonstrations can be performed, allowing participants to support their cause, without disregarding laws.”


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company