Lawmakers aim to silence a very specific group of people.
Some of the pillars on which great policy stands should be fairness, problem-solving and economic vitality.
The rules that govern societies shouldn’t come from a place of hatred and be forced upon the public; instead they should be birthed from nonpartisan, forward thinking conversations that aim to create equity, assets and access for all people.
When I think of great lawmakers and bold, fearless individuals who did and do what’s right for constituents, even when it’s unpopular, a short list comes to mind. And its safe to say, without question, the one person not included on my honor roll is Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Vereb, who was so “utterly outraged” last week that Mumia Abu-Jamal was selected to give a commencement speech that he introduced a bill (HB2533) called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.”
Mr. Vereb, who serves the 150th legislative district and is currently campaigning for re-election—if he wins it’ll be his fifth two-year term—considers it “shameful misconduct” for a prisoner or a free citizen who was convicted of a personal injury crime, to have a voice in society and offer their thought-leadership and stories to both add value to younger generations, and deter them from engaging in the type of behavior that landed them behind bars.
The problems with Mr Vereb’s bill, which the PA General Assembly has fast-tracked for approval and amended another bill (SB508) to include the same language, is that it doesn’t stand on the pillars of great policy.
It’s not fair, because it was birthed solely out of Mr. Vereb’s hatred for Mr. Abu-Jamal and his alleged crime, yet will impact hundreds of thousands of men and women; some of who have served their time; some who are/were innocent.
Mr. Vereb’s bill doesn’t solve a problem: he claims Mr. Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech re-traumatized the victim’s family, but that’s not true. Mr. Abu-Jamal could’ve given his speech to the group of young people and no one in the victim’s family would’ve known about it. The problem is the media, who over-publicized the story—which really had no public interest value -and ran it as their lead. Mr. Vereb’s bill doesn’t address the media’s role in re-traumatizing victims, thus it’s one-sided and ineffective.
It has no economic vitality, because it would cause individuals—many who can’t obtain traditional employment due to prejudices and perceptions—to lose income from their lecturing and book writing, which, in my opinion, offers a great value to society.
Imagine if the fundamental ideology of Mr. Vereb’s bill was applied to other situations and championed by marginalized groups of people. For example, what if African-Americans wanted to sue their government for instituting a holiday to celebrate former presidents who were involved in the slave trade—slavery was pretty damn traumatizing, even just learning about sometimes ignites anxiety and anger.
What if the Native Americans wanted to sue car dealerships for having Columbus Day sales because it re-traumatized their community and reminded them of the awful things Christopher Columbus did.
If Mr. Vereb wants to be effective, he should turn his attention to the media and how they handle sensitive stories and/or cover polarizing figures—that would have more weight with the people.
I oppose this bill and encourage others to do the same. Election Day is less than three weeks away, so call your State Representative and tell them you don’t support Mike Vereb’s Revictimization Relief Act and they shouldn’t either!
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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