Oklahoma’s Draconian New Anti-Protest Laws Aim to Punish Activists

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed a bill into law that will drastically alter sentencing practices for protesters convicted of trespassing. State lawmakers pushed this legislation through in response to the massive demonstrations surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction.

Oklahoma has emerged as one of the top states in the country for fossil fuel production, particularly natural gas obtained through fracking. As such,conservative lawmakers have made this industry’s protection a top priority.

The new law specifically deals with trespass onto industrial sites like refineries, railways and pipelines. A convicted individual would face a minimum of $1,000 in fines — with no set upper limit — and as much as a year of jail time. Those convicted of “tampering” or “defacing” equipment or property within these sites could face as much as 10 years in jail and a hefty $100,000 fine.

Perhaps more crucially, Oklahoma’s new law aims to severely punish activist organizations. For individuals found guilty of trespassing or vandalism, any group they are deemed to be associated with will face 10-fold the sentence given to the convicted person. The law’s wording characterizes these organizations as “conspirators.”

Gov. Fallin signed another, similar, law on the same day. This one opens up a party that “compensates, provides consideration or remunerates” someone accused of this type of trespassing to civil liability.

The important distinction here is “accused” versus convicted — meaning it would be possible for an individual or an organization to be penalized for a tenuous linked to a person arrested, but later acquitted, for trespassing. In other words, a punishment for no actual crime.

Oklahoma is hardly the only state either considering or passing laws that seek to restrict Americans’ right to protest. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, over 30 anti-protest laws have been introduced in more than a dozen states since early November.

States considering anti-protest legislation. Image credit: ACLU

Curiously, such bills have emerged primarily in states that have experienced widespread demonstrations — like North Dakota, the epicenter of the protests against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, and Tennessee, the destination of the pipeline. Both states have seen lawmakers introduce bills that would essentially free motorists who strike protesters in roadways from being held legally liable.

Peaceful protest and social activism are American traditions. Civil disobedience is a powerful and effective strategy that has produced some of the most important changes in this country’s history. And the protests that have inspired these anti-First Amendment state laws have, almost entirely, followed this path.

After all, mass civil obedience defined the Civil Rights Movement, and compelling photographs of activists undertaking “sit-ins” and marches often accompany any historical account of that time period.

It is not difficult to draw a comparison between those striving for racial and environmental justice today and those who sought to do away with practices like segregation in the 1960s. If we, as a nation, believe businesses — that are legally “people” in a sense — are more entitled to rights than actual flesh-and-blood citizens, we have strayed far from the path of progress.

Photo Credit: Molly Adams / flickr

81 comments

Telica R
Telica R6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Past Member
Past Member about a year ago

Deborah W. Full of crap as usual. But then you think Bill Oliely is innocent. Ailes the Fux News pig and pedophile was remembered fondly by those vermin you watch. Had a bad 10 MONTHS they said. Wanted to vomit since he did this for YEARS. Bet his victims vomited. Fux News watchers. GARBAGE.

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Past Member
Past Member about a year ago

Correction. Pig

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Past Member
Past Member about a year ago

Will Rogers. Notice how Fux News and other repug sites do not report on trump supporters having GUNS and sugns that say. BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. Meaning us protesters. They report stories in remembering that pug and pedophile Roger Ailes who was on trumps team. They reported he a bad 10 MONTHS. He was doing this for YEARS. And they knew it. MAY AILES ROT IN HELL.

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Will R
Will Rogersabout a year ago

They're probably doing it to stop black people from protesting, that's the underlying theme. But MLK was wrong. If peaceful protest worked, black people in America would be free. The reason it worked for Gandhi is because Indians were in the majority, and even then he wasn't against violence. He was just personally against violence but refused to speak for others. Mandela on the other hand was always pro violence. He would have been released years earlier if he declared himself non violent! Why is everyone else allowed to pursue violence in the name of freedom except blacks? There is a double standard therein. The Anglo/american army are still are still avenging 9-11! Peaceful protest is counterproductive. They want them to keep marching, keep on being peaceful so they can maintain the status quo and oppress them forever. It took violent direct action for the suffragettes to get the vote. Why expect less?

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Will Rogers
Will Rogersabout a year ago

American politics is so corrupt! If they didn't have the most powerful army in the world with the most psychopaths, they would surely be the subject of international sanctions. They have a political system comparable to dictatorships all over the world.

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago

Thanks!!!

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william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago

Thanks

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Mary B
Mary Babout a year ago

Peaceful protest is peaceful. Starting fights, defacing or destroying property can be dealt with under existing laws. So lets start by arresting the owners of corporations that pollute, destroy land, and in other ways threaten our health and eco-systems.

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