Frictions of Mobility Justice: Anti-Racism Protests on U.S. Highways and the Legislative Backlash
Dr. Julie Cidel, Geography and Geographic Information Science, Tuesday, February 22, 1-1:50 PM, 223 TBH
Spaces of protest have long been of interest to scholars because of their transgressive and highly-visible uses of urban space. However, the increased visibility such spaces bring also puts protestors at greater risk of a backlash from others who expect to be able to keep moving at their own pace. As global logistics systems increasingly emphasize seamlessness and speed, unimpeded mobility comes to matter more than place. Any friction that impedes that mobility comes to be seen as a threat to individuals and maybe to the nation.
Starting in 2014, a series of anti-racism protests in the U.S. began using large-scale transportation infrastructure in urban areas. Shortly thereafter, in 2017, seventeen states introduced twenty-one pieces of legislation aimed at stopping such protests, whether through increasing criminal penalties, creating new violations, or indemnifying drivers who accidentally hit protestors. Although only two of these bills passed into law, they are still of interest for what they demonstrate about state-level legislative responses to protest. This paper analyzes the geographies of the legislative sponsors of these bills, along with the arguments made by those sponsors and their supporters, using the theoretical lenses of friction and mobility justice to argue that in the highly-mobile society of the U.S., fear of delay or disruption becomes even more powerful when combined with racialized fears of the city.