I’ve written earlier about North Dakota’s assaults on our Constitution including changes sought to protect people from prosecution—see 16 January—if they happen to use their vehicle to run over lawful protesters.
As I was updating my list of stories surrounding the Dakota Access Pipe Line this morning, I came across David Blackmon’s A New Controversy Rises As Oil Begins To Flow Through Dakota Access Pipeline for Fortune magazine. He writes:
The question now is, with the State of North Dakota estimating that it and local authorities have incurred more than $38 million in costs related to the policing of the protesters and cleanup of the massive mess they made at Oceti Sakowin and other protest camps, who is ultimately going to pay the bill?
Mike Nowatski, a spokesman for North Dakota Governor Doug Borgum, said that “all options are on the table” as far as the state is concerned, and that “the governor’s office has been in discussions with both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and White House officials to emphasize the state’s position that federal reimbursement is warranted.”
We know for certain who won’t be paying, and that is the protesters and the various conflict groups, like Earthjustice, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and 350.org, who organized and paid many of them to engage in often-violent actions that led to more than 700 arrests during the course of the protest action. Conflict groups like these raised millions from donors related to the protest action, but shortcomings in federal law [Feckin’ shortcomings? Really? JH]deprive the government of any legal recourse against the organizers or the thousands of protesters who left behind more than 2,000 cubic yards of garbage, large quantities of buried human waste, 44 abandoned vehicles and at least a dozen abandoned dogs.
Hopefully, congress will review the lessons learned from this disruptive and costly protest action and enact laws that enable the government to hold these conflict groups financially liable for the messes they help to create. Everyone has the first amendment right to peaceful protest, but that right does not extend to willful violation of law and destruction of property. [Says who? JH]
North Dakota would like to change our First Amendment to read:
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 [as long as they agree, and are capable of, fully reimbursing all Federal, State and Local governmental agencies for all costs associated with the peaceable assembly], and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is the governmental equivalent of the corporatist’s SLAPP suit.
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech. [Emphasis mine, JH]
This is just one reason why the fight over the Supreme Court Of The United States is vita.