Action Alert: Ohio SB33 Anti-Protest, Anti-Free Speech Bill

The SB 33 bill dramatically increases the penalties for non-violent protest at fracking sb33sites, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical plants and other ‘critical infrastructure” sites.  It makes non-profits and organizations and congregations liable for punishment if they support protesters charged under this bill. This is a direct threat to basic rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

This bill directly attacks our first amendment rights to engage in non-violent protest and speak truth to power

It looks like the State House will hold a hearing on Jan. 28 or 29, 2020.

Jan. 29 is the most likely date, at 10 am, if the Utilities Committee follows its usual pattern.

See the Greenpeace summary at:

  • Under SB33, penalties for trespass are dramatically heightened if they occur on so-called “critical infrastructure”:
  • While general criminal trespass “on the land or premises of another” is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, the bill would make the same offense punishable by half a year in jail and $1,000 if it takes place on a critical infrastructure facility.
  • The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” is sweeping, and includes a vast array of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, railroad facilities, and other locations.
  • It includes oil and gas sites, fracking wells, petrochemical plants, pipelines and other places that destroy the environment and put our children’s health at risk.
  • Under the bill, an individual peacefully protesting in the wrong place could be sanctioned with half a year in jail.
  • The bill also substantially expands the definition of felony “criminal mischief” in ways likely to chill and put a stop to peaceful protest activity.
  • The bill’s vague definition of the new offense, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, includes “knowingly [and] improperly tamper[ing] with” a critical infrastructure facility.

Lawmakers have attempted to define “improperly tampering,” but their definition (“changing the physical location or physical condition”) does not provide sufficient precision or clarity for individuals facing potential felony charges and a decade in prison.

In the absence of a clearly-defined offense, individuals cannot be expected to know what conduct is or is not criminalized. Rather than face the risk of draconian penalties, they will likely censor themselves, and avoid exercising their First Amendment rights.

It was  designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC – to establish special protections especially for the oil and gas industry.  And put an end to any public protest or opposition to the activities of these industries.

It is also designed to punish non-profits, environmental groups  and even congregations who dare to support the people protesting  at these sites with fines up to $100,000.  The Senate version contains criminal and civil liabilities for non-profits and organizations.  The House version tried to amend the criminal liability, but made it even more murky in its definition of organizational improper action.

What you can do.

  • Share this with your networks
  • Write a Letter to the Editor
  • Show up and pack the Hearing Room  when the House Utilities Committee meets on Jan. 28 or 29, probably in the morning.
  • Attend the House session that might follow to be present during the floor vote.
  • Provide Written Opposition Testimony.
  • Offer Spoken Opposition Testimony from those of you willing to speak for 3 minutes.

(Thanks to UUJO for this information.)

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