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Harsh new anti-protest laws restrict freedom of speech, advocates say

Author: Nicholas Kusnetz, The Washington Post, Published on: 23 August 2018

Only days after... [activists] announced their plans to resist the Diamond Pipeline construction, an Oklahoma state lawmaker introduced a bill to stiffen penalties for interfering with pipeline projects and other “critical infrastructure.” The law, which the governor signed, imposed punishments of up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines — and up to $1 million for any organization “found to be a conspirator.” Merely stepping onto a pipeline easement suddenly risked a year in prison... Law enforcement and private companies have surveilled pipeline campaigners in Louisiana, Virginia, Washington, North Dakota and other states, according to public records obtained by environmental groups and news organizations... In 2017, 84 members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking if protesters who tamper with pipelines could be prosecuted as domestic terrorists. Sponsors of the state pipeline bills have also invoked terrorism... Advocacy groups fear the legislation uses a handful of dangerous incidents as a pretext to intimidate mainstream advocates.

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