Senate Bill 33, the Anti-protest Chill Bill, passed the Ohio House and is on the Governor’s desk. Thousands of Ohioans have protested this bill because it will affect all of us protesting oil and gas assaults on our communities. The governor must veto this unconstitutional bill that is intended to quash our FREE SPEECH rights. It also violates freedom of religion (see more below).
The mailboxes on the phone lines 614-466-3555 may be full. If so, try 614-644-4357 or write to Gov DeWine and tell him to VETO SB 33! governor.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/governor/contact (If you can’t get through this way, try calling again – I just got through by phone but not by e-mail.)
Ask DeWine to veto this unconstitutional, dangerous and unnecessary bill, which makes peaceful protests at oil and gas and other infrastructure sites felonies with high fines and prison sentences. It chills free speech and penalizes climate activists and citizens who are peacefully protesting dirty infrastructure in their communities and on their own land.
Whether or not it is deemed unconstitutional and overturned in the future, it will CHILL FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS MEANWHILE.
It can also put grassroots organizations out of business, with $100,000 fines if convicted of encouraging any of the vaguely defined “tampering” at oil and gas and other infrastructure sites.
The fine print:
- The bill intentionally chills constitutionally protected free speech rights with draconian fines and prison terms for peaceful activities. It is modeled on legislation by ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes right-wing corporate agendas through model legislation. (The Ohio Senate sponsor of the legislation, Frank Hoagland, has been a member of ALEC and owns a private surveillance company.) The bill’s vague language, where “tampering” means changing “the physical location or physical condition of the property,” and “damage” is left undefined, means that peaceful gatherings can inadvertently lead to felony convictions, fines, and prison terms. Even putting up fliers on telephone poles could be a felony under this legislation, since communications infrastructure is covered under it. That the law may be eventually deemed unconstitutional by the courts does nothing to protect citizens and organizations meanwhile from its draconian penalties and chilling effects! Thus the Governor allowing it to become law will have serious immediate and long-lasting consequences.
- The bill is unnecessary since Ohio law already covers criminal trespass and vandalism in other statutes. This bill increases penalties specifically for oil and gas infrastructure sites, including pipelines, where Americans are increasingly focusing their concern for public health and the climate, due to the urgency of these issues. Americans have already been prosecuted for peaceful tree sitson their own land when that land has been confiscated and destroyed by pipeline companies! So peaceful activity at oil and gas gets more severely penalized than violent actions elsewhere!
- The bill attacks freedom of religion, since, as UU Reverend JoanVanBecelaere states, it “prohibits justice-oriented faith traditions from exercising what they believe is their religious duty to engage in public witness at those places where the health and life of people are endangered and the sacred integrity of the environment is put in jeopardy.”
- Organizations that may promote such gatherings can be fined up to $100,000 even though they cannot control the behavior of event attendees, which may include agent provocateurs, who thus can financially destroy the grassroots organizations working on the frontlines of the climate justice movement.
- A United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights communicated with the U.S. government in 2017 stated that such bills “would highly curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly in ways that are incompatible with U.S. obligations under international human rights law, in particular Articles 19 and 21 of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], as well as the First Amendment of the American Constitution.”
governor.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/governor/contact or phone 614-466-3555, 614-644-4357
Read testimony at statehouse committee hearings here. (There were eight proponents- all representing industry and agencies, and 171 opponents. ) Thousands have signed petitions against the bill, but many Ohioans have never heard of it! Please call or write the Governor TODAY! He could sign anytime. If he doesn’t sign or veto in 10 days, it becomes law.