Oklahoma Law Could Mean Huge Fines And Jail Time For Pipeline Protesters

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Rather than use the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as reasoning to make new laws protecting people from police brutality, Oklahoma has decided to further punish people for protesting dangerous pipelines. A new Oklahoma law effectively seeks to support gas and oil companies and remove the “right” to protest by threatening protesters with ridiculous fines and long jail sentences.

A coalition of Native American and environmental activists said, in January, they planned to protest the proposed Diamond Pipeline, a $900 million project that will carry crude oil from the Cushing refinery hub toward Tennessee.

Despite the law, a lead opposition organizer said that the rush to strengthen Oklahoma’s trespassing laws won’t deter the movement, according to The Oklahoman.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that charges steep fines or prison time against people convicted of trespassing at a critical infrastructure facility to impede operations. That includes pipelines, refineries, chemical plants, railways and other industrial sites.

Someone charged under the new law could face a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail if they intend to halt progress of a pipeline or otherwise interfere with operations. The penalty increases to 10 years and $100,000 if the person is successful at damaging, vandalizing, defacing or tampering with equipment.

So basically, if someone spray paints a bulldozer, or is chained to equipment they would get 10 years in jail and $100,000 fine. While someone who simply steps onto “company property” could face a year in jail and $10,000 fine.

The fine for simple trespassing at a “critical infrastructure” site would be a minimum of $1,000, with no upper limit, but of  course it would be the company sponsored police force that determines the intent of the “trespasser.”

Not realizing this infrastructure is actually bad for progress because it more tightly secures the knot that keeps us reliant on fossil fuels, State Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha. said “This law is about protecting our state’s most important and critical infrastructure by holding those who seek to do our state harm accountable.”

Biggs was the primary author for House Bill 1123, which also would hold organizations liable for the same acts. Any fine levied against the perpetrator would be 10 times greater for an organization found to be a conspirator.

The Oklahoman also reported on another bill, passed the same day, that seeks to further punish people for protesting:

On the same day Fallin signed that bill, lawmakers approved another one that would make trespassers liable for damages to real or personal property. House Bill 2128 also extends civil liability to a “person or entity that compensates, provides consideration or remunerates a person for trespassing.”

The bill’s author, state Rep. Mark McBride, said the so-called vicarious liability provision would apply to people who give lodging to those who are later arrested for trespassing. He said the idea for the bill came from actions along the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Democrats opposed the bill because it would allow lawsuits even if there is no conviction. A person could be hauled into court to pay for damage if they are, at a minimum, arrested on suspicion of trespassing.

“So at the end of the day, you can be arrested, acquitted, and somebody can be held liable for your completely lawful activity?” asked state Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City.

McBride said it would be an issue for courts to decide.

“I think it’s a fear tactic to try to oppress the First Amendment,” said Mekasi Camp Horinek, state director for Bold Oklahoma. “As a father and son of the state of Oklahoma, I’m going to stand up and do what I feel is right for my family, for my people, and the people of this state.”

Horniek likened the anti-pipeline protest to the civil rights movement because of civil disobedience.

“Without those people who were willing to sacrifice themselves and put themselves in a position to nonviolently break the law, some of the rights that we all benefit from today might not have happened if these types of laws were in place at the time,” he said.

As the pipeline progresses, we will get to see if their anti-constitutional scare tactics work to protect corporate profits at the expense of American, or if people just don’t care and they are willing to stand against injustice regardless of the threats from the state.

(Article By Jeremiah Jones)

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