Southeast Missouri State University student publication

What’s going on with Senate Bill 66?

Monday, February 15, 2021

The definition of unlawful gatherings in the newly-proposed bill is “six or more persons who meet for the purpose of violating any of the criminal laws of this state or of the United States.”

In Missouri, changes to a Senate Bill (SB 66) revolving around “unlawful gatherings” make for more harsh ramifications if protests were to block a street in any way without the police’s foreknowledge or permission.

One of the many important things to happen in 2020, the protests were in reaction to the many injustices happening across the nation. However peaceful they may be, those protests could be affected by new modifications to a Missouri Senate Bill.

In the documents, it also outlines laws that state if a group of people participating in an “unlawful gathering” were to be blocking a street or highway, they could be liable for a felony charge.

“The person walks, stands, sits, kneels, lays or places an object in such a manner as to block passage by a vehicle on any public street, highway or interstate highway … while part of an unlawful gathering is a class E Felony,” the Senate Bill said.

“So you and your buddies get into a van and there's six of you in the van, you're on Highway 55, driving 100 miles an hour. Are you a riot? Technically, under this bill, yes,” said Dr. Laura Hatcher, associate professor of political science, in regards to the broadness of the bill.

Protests, vandalism and vehicle accidents involving people blocking the road are all things that are covered in this bill.

“Often in early bills, the language is overbroad, and are really there to just provoke a conversation. It will probably go through some different iterations before it were to pass,” Hatcher said.

To dive deeper into what this proposed bill is about, you can check out the first and senate committee substitute versions of the bill here.