Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 20, 2017

Criminalizing Protests, North Dakota Leads the Way, New Tracking Reveals


President Trump and the states have enacted new laws that target Earth Defenders, while protecting the profits of destructive industries

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

North Dakota leads in enacting the most laws to criminalize protests, according to the tracking of laws by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. North Dakota has enacted more laws to criminalize protests than any other state.
However, other states are passing, or in the process of passing, laws that criminalize the wearing of masks at protests, and other laws that remove penalties for drivers running over protesters.
The laws enacted by North Dakota include the executive order of Feb. 15, 2017, ordering the evacuation of Oceti Sakowin, giving water protectors only one week to leave.
North Dakota also enacted laws criminalizing the wearing of masks. Further, North Dakota passed two other laws, expanding the scope for trespass and heightening penalties for riot offenses.
South Dakota enacted a law on March 14, 2017, which expands the governor's power to restrict certain protests. This law expands the governor’s authority to curtail protest activities on public lands and restricts protests that interfere with highway traffic.
Oklahoma heightened penalties for protesters who trespass onto private property.
Washington State still has a bill pending that would heighten penalties for those who conceal their identities during protests.
Although Colorado attempted to protect the oil and gas industry from protests with a new law, it failed.
Trump's order, Obama's military at Standing Rock
In August, President Trump issued an executive order giving riot gear and other military equipment to local law enforcement. Executive order 13809 "reinstates a program that transfers surplus military equipment to police departments across the country."
However, riot gear and other military equipment was routinely used against peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock in 2016, during the Obama administration, as shown in the photo below.
The new report states:
The “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement's Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources” reinstates a program that transfers surplus military equipment to police departments across the country. President Obama had scaled back the 1990s-era program in 2015, following the heavily armed police response to protests against the killing of black men in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere. With Executive Order 13809, President Trump restored the program, and police departments will again receive free weaponized vehicles, certain large-caliber ammunition, riot gear, and other military equipment – which may once again be used when responding to protests. 
Militarized police at Standing Rock during the Obama administration in 2016. Photo by Rob Wilson.

Read the full report

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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