CLAIM: UK-based The Guardian claims that, “Seven states have passed laws that ratchet up the penalties for activists protesting or even planning protests of oil and gas pipelines and other `critical infrastructure.’”
The Guardian is buying into extremists’ claims that state laws are aimed at their First Amendment right to protest through free speech and assembly. Nothing, however, in any of the laws infringe upon their rights to speech and assembly.
Instead, they are aimed at penalizing and curbing dangerous and illegal behavior that endanger workers, law-enforcement officials and the protesters themselves. That’s why the language in the legislation is very clear. Take the language of the bill in Texas, for example:
DAMAGING OR DESTROYING CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITY. (a) A person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner, the person enters or remains on or in a critical infrastructure facility and intentionally or knowingly damages or destroys the facility.
IMPAIRING OR INTERRUPTING OPERATION OF CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITY. (a) A person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner, the person enters or remains on or in a critical infrastructure facility and intentionally or knowingly impairs or interrupts the operation of the facility.
As far as claims that legislation makes it a crime to “plan protests,” this is apparently a reference to the riot-boosting law in South Dakota – which makes it illegal to plan a riot:
In addition to any other liability or criminal penalty under law, a person is liable for riot boosting, jointly and severally with any other person, to the state or a political subdivision in an action for damages if the person:
(1) Participates in any riot and directs, advises, encourages, or solicits any other person participating in the riot to acts of force or violence;
(2) Does not personally participate in any riot but directs, advises, encourages, or solicits other persons participating in the riot to acts of force or violence; or
(3) Upon the direction, advice, encouragement, or solicitation of any other person, uses force or violence, or makes any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by three or more persons, acting together and without authority of law.
States are enacting these laws for a very simple reason. Extremists are getting more violent as they seek to prevent the construction of pipelines in the United States. For example:
- Extremists set a dozen fires on a public highway while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- Activists in Florida crawled into a pipeline under construction and chained themselves together, placing themselves and public safety officials in danger.
- Activists are increasingly trespassing to turn off valves on pipelines, disrupting the flow of oil or natural gas and potentially causing “death, injury, and economic and environmental harm,” according to federal officials.
- Just last month, an extremist chained himself to equipment at a pipeline project – jeopardizing his safety and worker safety.
In short, states are rightfully worried about trespassing and violent crimes – and not peaceful, legal protests.