…like how the telescreens and Room 101 are for your own good, Winston Smith.
Greg Belfrage and I capped our interview this morning with a quick back-and-forth on Senate Bill 176, the Governor’s war-powers-for-protests act. Responding to the lively protests and arrests at the now closed Dakota Access pipeline protest camp on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, the Governor’s chief policy advisor, Tony Venhuizen, said on Belfrage’s program yesterday that this measure is aimed mostly at protecting peaceful, law-abiding protestors.
Poppycock. There are no protestors running to Pierre or Bismarck and begging the governors for more protection. Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier, Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue, and others who supported the Dakota Access protest came to Pierre to testify against SB 176 Tuesday, only to be rebuffed by the Governor who purports to be acting in their best interest.
IM22 voters, this paternalism should sound familiar.
If the Governor is concerned about lawbreaking protestors, then by definition there must already be laws under which those breakers can be busted. SB 176 is thus unnecessary.
To tackle hardcore protestors who get arrested but believe so firmly in their cause that they’ll return to the protest to resume their stand against whatever corporate beast has provoked their rages, the Governor would create a whole new crime, “aggravated trespassing,” which would dish out stiffer penalties for such repeat protestors. I can see the argument that if some bad dude trespasses on my property once, gets hauled off by cops, then gets out of jail and comes back to tromple my lawn again, maybe that bad dude needs a stiffer second penalty to get the message across that he should stop trespassing.
But Governor Daugaard isn’t creating a new second-trespass penalty to protect regular citizens from return trespassers on their private property. The Governor would impose this second-trespass penalty only in his emergency-power “public safety zones.” SB 176 isn’t about everyday public safety; SB 176 is about making protest a crime.
SB 176 is actually an attack on our property rights. Suppose TransCanada comes barreling through West River with Keystone XL a few months from now. Suppose John Harter, whose land TransCanada gets to build through thanks to eminent domain, invites protestors to come camp on his West River ranch and hurl invective at the pipeline builders as they commit their atrocity. The land along the route is entirely Harter’s; with Harter’s permission, the protestors have every right to occupy his land and shout over the easement fence at the pipeliners. Yet SB 176 allows Governor Daugaard to seize (without due process!) all of Harter’s land within a mile of the pipeline route, kick everyone off, including Harter himself, and arrest Harter and his guests if they try to return to Harter’s land.
Senators have softened SB 176 a touch, removing the referendum-resistant emergency clause and adding a July 1, 2020, sunset clause. But it’s still a bad bill.
If you have private property or if you have something to say, you shouldn’t feel protected by Senate Bill 176. You should feel your First and Fifth Amendment rights under attack. The Senate passed it 21–14, so now it’s time to call your Representatives and read them the Bill of Rights.