Massive demonstrations at Standing Rock in North Dakota, led by Native Americans, halted TransCanada’s oil pipeline project in 2016. This thrilled global environmentalists and created bonds among social justice movements. It also scared the hell out of law-and-order forces and their fossil-fuel company commanders.
TransCanada’s path of destruction was revived by Trump last year, and the company is desperately trying to block renewed disruption. South Dakota right-wing legislators have obligingly passed two bills that go even farther than other laws against dissent. The legislation defines pipeline protest as “riot-boosting,” that is, “acts of force or violence.”
The bills allow the state to prosecute pipeline protesters as felony criminals. And they legitimize suing for big money any absent supporters who “direct, advise, donate to or encourage” protest. Such monies will be used to reimburse the oil companies for profits lost and the state for policing costs during demonstrations (i.e. “riot-boosting”).
There will no doubt be legal challenges to these unconstitutional assaults. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Every activist fight is threatened — from healthcare and Social Security defenders to foes of fascism and white supremacy. We must all have each other’s backs in organizing to defeat such sinister laws.