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Indiana Joins South Dakota in Criminalizing Protest; What If We Deem Women’s Clinics “Critical Infrastructure”?

South Dakota isn’t the only place where pipeliners are pushing protest aside with broad and disproportionate penalties. Indiana just passed a bill purporting to protect “critical infrastructure facilities,” including pipelines, refineries, crude oil exploration and production equipment, power plants, dams, communication towers, and paper and drug factories. Yet like the Noem/TransCanada anti-protest bill, this rushed Indiana legislation appears designed to chill free speech by criminalizing peaceful protest:

New language would make organizations or individuals liable and responsible — and subject to harsh fines and potential lawsuits — if someone at a protest they organize or even just participate in commits one of the above crimes. The fine for “conspirators,” as termed in the bill: $100,000.

[Bill sponsor Rep. Ed] Soliday said there needs to be some sort of evidence that the organization encouraged the behavior, adding that “If I misbehave and there is no evidence they’ve encouraged misbehavior, that’s not a reason to find they are guilty.”

But the question for organizations such as CAC, the Sierra Club and others is what counts as encouragement?

“Is it an organization that supports the same goals as the protester? A group that posts a Facebook event for a protest? The law doesn’t say,” he [unclear attribution: maybe Kerwin Olson of Citizens Action Coalition?] said. “It creates an open door to arrest anybody for anything, which is exactly what you want if you’re Goliath trying to crush David’s dissent” [Sarah Bowman, “This Indiana Bill Is Meant to Protect Pipelines. Critics Say It Infringes on Free Speech,” Indy Star, 2019.03.10].

The Beltway-based Institute for Free Speech (which was part of the motley crew that won a big victory for the First Amendment by repealing IM 24 in court yesterday) doesn’t like the smell of Indiana’s anti-protest law. Their president, David Keating, wrote to the Indiana Legislature to try to get them to back down from this attack on free speech and association. His letter puts laws like Indiana’s (and South Dakota’s!) in perspective by asking what will happen when liberals like me become your next governor and use the law to protect their favored institutions from cranky conservative critics:

When laws that regulate speech or associations are vague, they can do serious harm to free speech. Consider the vague regulations interpreted by the IRS’s Lois Lerner. Those vague IRS regulations played a significant role in the IRS scandal, where Tea Party and conservative organizations were targeted for special scrutiny that delayed their applications for tax-exempt status.

Imagine a more liberal state that supports abortion adopting the language in S.B. 471, but substituted the phrase “critical women’s health facility” (meaning that it provides abortions) for “critical infrastructure facility.” Relatively trivial violations by pro-life activists might well lead to intrusive investigations and even serious criminal penalties. Investigations might be launched against pro-life organizations in an attempt to shut them down or bankrupt them. Even if the organizations eventually escaped financial sanctions, their legal defense costs could prove ruinous.

Yet such an assault on the free speech and associational rights of environmental or other groups that might have concerns about facilities covered by this proposal would be possible under S.B. 471, if it becomes law [David Keating, “Concerns with and Suggested Fixes to Indiana S.B. 471,” Instiute for Free Speech, 2019.03.18].

Governing to favor special interests ignores the possibility that your special interests won’t always enjoy the privilege of majority in government. One must always govern with an empathetic eye to the minority that at any moment one may become. Corporate-fascist laws that purport to protect pipelines from “terrorists” can boomerang on any group that might find itself on the short end of the electoral stick. The Bill of Rights exists to prevent such abuses of rights. Indiana’s and South Dakota’s erosion of the Bill of Rights in favor of our corporate overlords bodes ill for all of us.


  1. Terry Camp 2019-05-10 08:13

    We must recall a speech Hillary Clinton gave to German Bankers in 2013 at which time she said Russians and oligarchs were funding phony environmental groups to oppose fracking and oil pipelines.
    The pipeline protests were very reminiscent of the old Soviet style Nuclear protests operated by the KGB. The protests were organized, had communication, public relations, and logistics. We also must keep in mind that Putin was KGB.
    After we learned how the ground was so poisoned by human and animal waste, by tons of debris at the protesters campsite, the ‘water protector’ motive of the protest is now moot. Clearly, Russia had a hand in this.
    As progressives we must not allow ourselves to a-line with Russia nor the greedy corporations of the Environmental Industrial Complex no matter what the cause.

  2. mike from iowa 2019-05-10 09:17

    Pence looks like the perfect central casting KGB agent for an older James Bond movie. White hair, malignant/malicious smile. Drooling fangs.

  3. Richard Schriever 2019-05-10 10:04

    “After we learned how the ground was so poisoned by human and animal waste, by tons of debris …..” Uh, if I recall correctly – it was the state of ND that was prohibiting garbage trucks from entering to haul the stuff away. In addition, after the camp was cleared out it was the Tribal governments that cleaned it up – not the great “protectors” of North Dakota in state government.

    In addition, there seems to be a little cognitive conflict between your assertion that the protest was highly organized, communicative, and had great “logistics” and your recognition that the site was chaotic and messy.

  4. Porter Lansing 2019-05-10 10:37

    There doesn’t seem to be a Terry Camp living in SD. Who is this one who references Russia eight times in one post and believes American Indians lack the organizational skills to host a highly effective protest, over an extended time frame?

  5. mike from iowa 2019-05-10 11:19

    h/t Breitbart – a leaked Clinton campaign email suggests Clinton is aware that Russia is pouring millions of dollars into Western green groups, particularly anti-fracking groups, in an attempt to hobble America’s domestic energy market – to protect Russia’s petroleum export market.

    The following excerpt is from a summary of private paid for speeches made by Hillary to supporters;

    Clinton Talked About “Phony Environmental Groups” Funded By The Russians To Stand Against Pipelines And Fracking. “We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.” [Remarks at tinePublic, 6/18/14]

    I am having a devil of a time finding any HRC speeches to any German anythings in 2013. She gave 3 speeches to Goldman’s in that year. Of course this info is from purloined Wiki leaks and i’m guessing the content or context is suspicious because of dead Breitbart.

  6. Richard Schriever 2019-05-10 16:20

    So, the story that the Russians are funding protests in the Western US comes from a Russia supported “leak” source? Hmmmmm.

  7. T. Camp 2019-05-10 17:34

    Richard: Your memory is faulty. The waste was from over flowing RV holding tanks, and all the ‘stuff’ left by humans and animals after the camp was abandoned. Recall also the bombs which injured a woman. The local community was left with the task of clean up to prevent the contamination from washing away in the spring floods. Dump truck loads. All this was well documented, There was also many abandoned ‘pets’ that shelters were beseaged with. All well documented.
    Clearly, this was a Russian financed pipeline protest that Hillary talked about.
    As neo-progressives we must not side with Russia and the greedy entrenched political class wanting control over and harm us. Hillary’s was right.

  8. mike from iowa 2019-05-10 17:44

    T Camp, show us some proof Russia bankrolled these protests. Hearsay is not admissable. Cancelled checks are.

  9. Terry Camp 2019-05-10 17:45

    Porter: Again, very faulty research, the protect was not successful it failed. Nevertheless, you try to cloud the truth with deflection.
    I said nothing about Indians being unable to organize. These are your highly offensive words and thoughts. Shame on you! . My comments supported our past standard bearer. The protest was highly reminiscent of the anti nuclear protests supported by the old Soviet KGB. Putin is former KGB. Hmmmm!
    Stop acting like a Repub. Believe Hillary.

    [Psst, Terry! Check your e-mail! Give me a shout! —CAH]

  10. Porter Lansing 2019-05-10 18:04

    Terry … Hillary didn’t give that speech. The DAPL protest was nothing similar to nuclear protests. Nuclear protesters weren’t funded by KGB. You’re not a progressive. What credibility do to hope to attain with lies like these?

  11. Debbo 2019-05-11 01:48

    So anyway, on the free speech thing . . .

    Check out this website for a photo of a young boy holding up a sign at a demonstration/protest. It refers to free speech and the critical need for the free press. It’s really excellent.

    In the meantime, I can’t believe that either SD’s or Indiana’s laws are even marginally constitutional. Seriously.

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