'Vague, Overly Broad, and Sweeping in Scope': Lawsuits Take Aim at Efforts to Criminalize Anti-Pipeline Protests

A Louisiana lawsuit filed Wednesday aimed at laws targeting pipeline protesters is the latest front in a battle over freedom of speech and environmentally damaging infrastructure projects. 

Click Here: gold coast suns 2019 guernsey

“As more of these laws begin to appear (and pass!), more environmentalists are taking a stand. They must.”
—Yessenia Funes

Reporting from The Intercept, details how three states—Texas, Louisiana, and South Dakota—are facing or, in the case of Texas, will face, lawsuits challenging the anti-protest laws. 

Civil rights activists argue that the effect of the laws is to tamp down protest, an unconstitutional attack on free speech. In Texas, as Common Dreams reported earlier this month, both the state House and Senate passed versions of a bill that would make interfering with public infrastructure like pipelines a third degree felony—on par with attempted murder and indecent exposure to a child. 

“It’s hard to convince or even ask people with children to organize against pipelines if a mother will risk a felony,” Jennifer Falcon, spokesperson for Texas-based organization Society of Native Nations, told The Intercept.

The laws all make it a felony to trespass on property defined as “critical infrastructure,” an amorphous term that can be used broadly to imprison people fighting against planet-killing pipeline projects. 

Texans will have to wait for the state’s law to be used to charge someone before challenging the rule, lawyers told the Society of Native Nations. But other states are already seeing the effects of harsh, anti-protester legislation. 

Louisiana’s law, according to The Center For Constitutional Rights, added an amendment written by lobbying group Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) which is “so vague, overly broad, and sweeping in scope that people in the state cannot be sure of where in the vicinity of Louisiana’s vast 125,000-mile network of pipelines they can legally be present, who decides where they can be present, or what conduct is prohibited that can subject them to up to five years in prison, with or without hard labor.”

“This law was designed, really, to intimidate us,” said Anne White Hat, an activist with the Indigenous Women’s Council of the L’eau Est La Vie Camp who faces 10 years in prison in Louisiana for protesting in Louisiana under the law.