Since the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, among others, have funded model legislation that was then introduced into several state legislatures, criminalizing these protesters (who prefer to be called water and land protectors.) Not only are these bills an assault on free speech but also freedom of movement. Persons who unknowingly “trespass” on pipeline easements can be arrested, charged with felonies, fined tens of thousands of dollars and imprisoned up to 10 years.
Organizations and individuals opposing these bills point out that because of the way they are worded, referring to “critical infrastructure,” even teachers, for example, and others protesting education cutbacks or police brutality could possibly be jailed and fined under these laws. Citizens are challenging these fascist laws in court in Louisiana and South Dakota. A Texas bill passed in May amid vocal opposition, but thanks to the Coalition to Stop HB1633 in Illinois, which got over 6000 witness slips signed, plus all the calls and letters, emails and tweets to legislators, the bill is dead for now. Warning: Stay vigilant. It’ll be back.