State Passes “Emergency” Law to Fine Protesters Up To $1 Million

By Claire Bernish

Rushed to the governor’s desk under the pretense of being “an emergency,” a new statute signed into law in Oklahoma days ago increases penalties against protesters — specifically, it targets opposition to construction of the Diamond Pipeline — with those found guilty facing far stiffer penalties, including fines topping a mind-numbing $1 million.

Anyone caught trespassing on property considered containing a “critical infrastructure facility” will “face a felony and a minimum $10,000 fine if a court determines they entered property intending to damage, vandalize, deface, ‘impede or inhibit operations of the facility.’ Should the trespasser actually succeed in ‘tampering’ with the infrastructure, they face a $100,000 fine or 10 years of imprisonment,” The Intercept reports.

Summoning the ugly specter of Energy Transfer Partners’ horrendous PR imbroglio over massive camps of Native American water protectors endeavored to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin hastily signed the dissent-wrecking statute in a preemptive attempt to quash protest against the factious $900 million Diamond Pipeline — before grassroots opposition has the opportunity to mushroom.

As NewsOK describes the new rights-stomping legislation,

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.

The fine for just trespassing at a critical infrastructure site would be at least $1,000, but the Legislature did not include an upper limit.

Inadvertently reiterating the pernicious law’s definitive use against the constitutional right to protest, Republican Representative Scott Biggs — primary author of House Bill 1123 — noted its intent to put the rights of Big Oil infrastructure first, stating,

This law isn’t about lost hunters or misplaced campers. This law is about protecting our state’s most important and critical infrastructure by holding those who seek to do our state harm accountable.

While destruction of property should arguably carry harsh penalties, this draconian law — and a mirror bill currently winding its way through state legislature — make definitive the privilege the oil and gas industry enjoys by degrees of magnitude above public concern for the environment.

To wit, in addition to heightened punishments for trespassing individuals, both pieces of legislation exponentially ratchet up fines and prison time when actions are believed coordinated by an organization — increasing by tenfold the penalties when the perpetrator is a ‘group’ — as pro-fossil fuel advocates pegged outside entities as responsible for the immense show of opposition to Dakota Access.

“On the same day Fallin signed that bill,” NewsOK continues,

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.

Worse still, these laws would allow the pursuit of damages against protesters — even when no conviction results — and even if a subject is only arrested on the mere suspicion of trespassing.

“Significantly,” The Intercept elaborates, “the statute also implicates any organization ‘found to be a conspirator’ with the trespasser, threatening collaborator groups with a fine ‘ten times’ that imposed on the intruder — as much as $1 million in cases involving damage.”

House Bill 2128 would hold liable anyone — or any group — who “compensates, remunerates or provides consideration to someone who causes damage while trespassing.”

Opposition from Oklahoma Democrats centered primarily around that frightfully heavy-handed, subjective possibility. Representative Cory Williams demanded clarification from McBride on his intended definition of ‘compensation,’ Public Radio Tulsa reports, to which the author retorted sans irony,

“It means just what we want it to on this bill. How about that?”

“I’m sorry, what?” a stunned Williams replied. “Is it a check? Is it money? Is it staying at somebody’s house? Is it some other benefit conferred?”

Representative Collin Walke also queried of McBride,

“So at the end of the day, you can be arrested, acquitted, and somebody can be held liable for your completely lawful activity?”

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“That would be for the courts to decide,” said McBride.

“All due respect, we’re supposed to be writing laws,” Williams chided. “They interpret them. Our laws should have definitions in them.”

While water protectors’ peaceful but powerful opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline occupied headlines for months — thanks, in part, to the abhorrent violence inflicted by a multi-state police coalition headed by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department — resistance to new oil infrastructure construction spilled over into dozens of additional projects, including Diamond.

“The Diamond Pipeline is a $900 million, 20-inch crude oil pipeline that will run approximately 440 miles from Cushing to Memphis,” Tulsa World explains. “The pipeline will provide Valero’s Memphis Refinery with crude oil from Cushing and will be capable of transporting up to 200,000 barrels per day. Diamond Pipeline will cross seven counties in eastern Oklahoma — Lincoln, Creek, Okmulgee, Muskogee, McIntosh, Haskell and LeFlore. It will also pass through Arkansas to Memphis.”

Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corporation received approval to construct Diamond in 2014 — and crews began working on the project last year.

Similar to Dakota Access, Diamond’s route is slated to span Native American lands — considered sovereign nations in the U.S. Constitution — and has thus riled tensions once again between the corporate-protectionist government and Indigenous populations.

Bold Oklahoma joined #NoPlainsPipeline and the American Indian Movement in January to stand against Diamond Pipeline’s potentially ruinous route through Indigenous cultural, sacred, and historical locales, as well as hallowed burial grounds.

Despite understandable rancor among politicians opposed to the new laws, historically small-government Republicans remained adamant, ditching tradition to stand in solidarity with Big Oil against the perceived threat of paid protesters — and the potentiality of a hefty law enforcement payout should burgeoning protests attract the level of outrage and physical attention as Dakota Access.

Bold Oklahoma Director Mekasi Camp Horinek, asked whether direct action would be condoned by the group, carefully stated,

We stand behind the people, and if people choose to do that, we’re going to stand behind them in that choice, but that’s always an individual choice. There’s nobody that’s going to tell somebody else to do something illegal or put their bodies or their families in harm’s way.

Now that Big Oil has yet again been emboldened to run roughshod over anyone opposing construction of new infrastructure via untenably severe fines and prison sentences, the choice to partake in nonviolent civil disobedience must be carefully weighed by individuals.

But, with disruptive civil disobedience being the last bastion of the oppressed, it’s likely law enforcement and oil-loyal Oklahoma courts could see the theoretical $1 million liability levied in the near future.

Behind the flimsy façade feigning protesters with paychecks responsible for Americans’ embittered response to new pipeline construction —  and, thus, worthy of protection — pro-Diamond Oklahomans will soon conclude a law targeting one faction can as readily target another.

Having been arrested under suspicion of being a paid protester at Standing Rock during DAPL opposition, Horniek opined the necessity of preservation and conservation of water, land, and natural resources, recounting of the movement and his experiences,

I don’t think that when we’re talking about life, not only the life of our children and the life of our brothers and sisters, but when we’re talking about life itself, all living things on the planet, that state borders are going to deter or stop anybody from going to try to protect a body of water.

I’m an enrolled member of the Ponca Nation, and we were forcefully removed to the state of Oklahoma in 1876. I was there first as a father, as a son, as a brother. Secondly I was there as a Ponca tribal member, protecting the Missouri River. Last but not least, I was representing the Bold organization that I work for.

He added, “I think it’s a fear tactic to try to oppress the First Amendment.”

Centuries of governmental atrocities committed against Native Americans and the Indigenous Peoples of this continent have catapulted into the present in a simultaneous normalcy in maltreatment and categorical dismissal of Indigenous rights which so characterizes the immense anti-pipeline movement now spreading around the planet.

Many Native Americans — familiar to the shame of ignored treaties and the morass of legislation unmistakably benefiting industry over the health of the environment — view opposition to the Diamond and Dakota Access Pipelines, among others, as inherently inextricable from the very act of existence.

Without the ability to protest legally and peacefully, the oil and gas industry — embraced by the U.S. government’s mothering arms — isn’t likely to tamp down efforts to construct even the most redundant and undesired pipelines across the nation.

“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 asserted, duly noting parallels in the anti-Big Oil movement with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s — specifically, in acts of civil disobedience common to both.

“Without those people who were willing to sacrifice themselves and put themselves in a position to nonviolently break the law,” Horinek lamented, “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.”

Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen. This article first appeared here at TheFreeThoughtProject.com


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18 Comments on "State Passes “Emergency” Law to Fine Protesters Up To $1 Million"

  1. Grace by Faith on yt | May 8, 2017 at 11:13 am | Reply

    How on earth can they claim this law is to protect our infrastructure when it isn’t even really ours anymore to protect? In 1992, GHW Bush signed executive order 12803 “privatizing” our infrastructure which means the entire system – roads, bridges, dams, airports, railways, hospitals, schools, water and power systems, and even prisons – is up for sale to the highest bidder, foreign or domestic, individual or corporation. Warren Buffett now owns Klamath Lake and all its dams, reservoirs and water systems, and if that’s not scary enough, he bought it hiding behind the false authority of no fewer than four corporations.

    I post this a lot, but it makes my point easier to understand, what if China bought Boulder Dam, then gets ticked off at us for something or another (they’re always pretend bickering to shove through their Hegelian NWO agenda) and decides to just take it out? The damage to people, land, businesses, and the environment would be astronomical, not to mention rebuilding it, and considering taxpayers have to fund its operations, it’s a lose-lose situation for us. And while we could try to sue China (lol), all they’d have to say is, “No problem, just take it off what you owe us.”

    What this statute (it’s not a real de jure law, it’s de facto corporate policy under “color of law”) really is, is a corporation we are not stakeholders in creating more ways to steal money from us while protecting other corporations we are not stakeholders in. To hell with us, seems to be the norm these days.

    When are people going to wake up from this Orwellian nightmare and call these crooks on their fraud and treason? And when are people going to take a real stand against it, or at least expose it? Apparently not on AP, they can’t make revenue doing that.

    • “In 1992, GHW Bush signed executive order 12803 “privatizing” our infrastructure”

      I own 300 feet of I40 and 12 bars of cell AT45 at Leavenworth. Not much but it is a small investment in our future :-/

    • SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS !

  2. Build a wall around Oklahoma; nothing enters and nothing leaves.

  3. All you need to do here is find out who was lobbying for this bill.

  4. Hmmm

    The problem with this “law” and the countless others before it is that they are in direct violation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In fact, such laws basically just piss all over the Bill of Rights. It violates are right to peaceably assemble, our right to freedom of speech, our right to petition in the government in the form of a protest. The legislators that voted for this “law” and the governor that signed it should be impeached and put on trial for sedition.

    These rights that this laws makes a mockery out of were of such importance to the welfare of the Citizens and the survival of the Republic that they are contained in the very first amendment to the Constitution.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
    thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  5. This is another example how powerful corporations are in collusion with govt to get what they want. This is a dangerous precedent because it could mean the eventual shutting down of protests for fear of severe punishment/penalties. Slowing but surely the strangle hold on Americas’ throat is tightening. I am afraid the citizens will revolt with mass civil protest in the future but by then it may be too late. Not good.

  6. “While destruction of property should arguably carry harsh penalties”

    Why? When has material objects become more important then people’s health and well being?

  7. Has Oklahoma turned Communist? Tyranny and Totalitarianism must be fought against and Conquered.

  8. Blatantly unconstitutional!

  9. Waiting4Justice | May 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Reply

    A protester is one who gathers with a group to PEACEFULLY protest. They do not block streets, yell insults, throw frozen cans of soda at old folks, break storefront windows, overturn and burn police cars or stab people.

    Once a person crosses the line from being a peaceful protester and commits a crime against another fellow citizen or their property they are no longer a PROTESTER but rather a RIOTER.

    Now this bill of fining is going to probably lump protesters and rioters together as this is the Communist way of passing laws in a sneaky way by twisting words and definitions.

    Folks we really need to drain this swamp of Communists and Muslims.

    Ultimately the police and the judges are to blame for this because if they had been doing their job of “keeping the peace” anyone that is peaceful would be left alone while the trouble makers would have been hauled off to a jail cell, charged with disturbing the peace and if caught wrecking property or harming someone charged with hurting another financially.

    This is all bs.

    Amerika is in the final phase of a good old fashion Communist take over.

    And we are absolutely in the final phase.

    Thanks to our Communist educational system that has indoctrinated at least two generations now.

    • You destroy all credibility by referring to communists & muslims. Brainwashed much? Oh right, you are in america.

    • “A protester is one who gathers with a group to PEACEFULLY protest.”

      You are becoming the arbiter of others actions in a supposedly free society. Sometimes the rulers don’t listen and they need a wakeup call. There are many things wrong with the US including communism.

  10. The other side of this coin should be equally massive restitution if an individuals constitutional rights are abrogated by any of the state’s employees. As lawyers often work on a percentage basis of any settlement given by a court we should also see these ‘good fellows’ stepping up to defend those whose rights have been abrogated by the state. Or what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

  11. Brian Niziol | May 9, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Reply

    Only a fool would vote these people into power. So Oklahoma is a state of morons. I already knew that so tell us something we do not know. .

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