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US Corps Sue Green Groups Calling Critics "Terrorists"


December 13, 2017
Rainforest Action Network & Nikhil Swaminathan / Grist & Adam Gabbatt / The Guardian

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a broad legal assault against Greenpeace and many other organizations that oppose this highly controversial fossil fuel project. Why should you care? Because this lawsuit represents a many-faceted and very real threat to everyone's First Amendment rights to protest and organize in defense of people and planet.

https://www.ran.org/robert_reich_explains_slapp_suit

Fight for Our Climate -- and Our First Amendment
Christopher Herrera / Rainforest Action Network

(December 9, 2017) -- Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a broad legal assault against Greenpeace and many other organizations that oppose this highly controversial fossil fuel project.

Why should you care? Because this lawsuit represents a many-faceted and very real threat to everyone's First Amendment rights to protest and organize in defense of people and planet.

Please take a moment to watch this video as Robert Reich explains how this is an example of a SLAPP suit -- which stands for "strategic lawsuit against public participation."



Corporations like ETP want to sue the environmental movement into silence. But we are standing firm against corporate greed, against human rights abuses, against governmental overreach, and against threats to our future.

You are part of a broad and growing movement that is supporting Indigenous and grassroots leadership to stop disastrous pipelines like DAPL, the Keystone XL pipeline, and other projects that threaten clean water, destroy communities and slice through Indigenous lands. With your support, we are following the money and telling banks like JPMorgan Chase to stop backing these projects. We are working with partners from the Gulf Coast to Canada.

They think they can stop us from fighting for people and planet.
But we are just getting started.
For the future,

Christopher Herrera is the Communications Director for Rainforest Action Network.



"According to this lawsuit, if you opposed the
Dakota Access Pipeline, you're a terrorist."


That was the very accurate headline on Grist.com this past August, when Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, filed a broad legal assault against Greenpeace and many other organizations that opposed the highly controversial fossil fuel project.

Why should you care? Because this lawsuit represents a many-faceted and very real threat to everyone's First Amendment rights to protest and organize in defense of people and planet.

As Robert Reich explains in this video, this is a clear example of a SLAPP suit, which stands for "strategic lawsuit against public participation."

Speaking about this suit to Grist, Tara Houska, a tribal attorney and national campaigns director at the indigenous environmental nonprofit Honor the Earth, defined a SLAPP suit as "a way to try to silence free speech by trying to cost the defendant -- organizations or movements or individuals, sometimes -- money."

But these types of lawsuits are far from the only threat. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 30 separate anti-protest bills have been introduced in the country since Nov. 8 last year.

The American tradition of dissent and protest is crucial to social progress -- from the civil rights movement, to the women's rights movement, to the LGBT rights movement and onward. And these actions are desperate attacks by desperate corporations and politicians looking to take down anyone who speaks the truth in this country -- that includes Indigenous leaders fighting for their rights and to protect their water, supporting organizations like RAN and Greenpeace, or responsible journalists who report the facts.

But these attacks won't work. There is a broad and growing movement that is supporting Indigenous and grassroots leadership to stop disastrous pipelines like DAPL, the Keystone XL pipeline, and other projects that threaten clean water, destroy communities and slice through Indigenous lands.

We are following the money and telling banks like JPMorgan Chase to stop backing these projects. We are working with partners from the Gulf Coast to Canada. We are witnessing greater support from people who are saying "Enough is Enough -- it's time for a clean energy future."

We are standing firm against corporate greed, against human rights abuses, against governmental overreach, and against threats to our future.
They think they can stop us from fighting for people and planet.
But we are just getting started.


According to This Lawsuit,
If You Opposed DAPL, You're a Terrorist

Nikhil Swaminathan / Grist

(August 25, 2017) -- The natural gas company Energy Transfer Partners has opened a new front in its ongoing battle with the environmental movement that opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Dallas-based company is now labeling many of those who opposed its pipeline "eco-terrorists." This from a company that employed a private security outfit to surveil and track members of the #noDAPL movement as though they were jihadists.

A lawsuit filed in federal court argues that GreenPeace, Earth First! and many other green groups engaged in racketeering, outlining a "criminal enterprise" involving a coordinated attack launched by "wolfpacks of corrupt" environmental groups -- using fake news and publicity stunts -- that bogged down its construction effort and cost the company millions of dollars.

The 187-page complaint name checks nearly every environmental group you could think of -- Earthjustice, The Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, and on and on.

The suit also names BankTrack, an organization that monitors the financial activities of commercial banks, as a defendant, as a result of its involvement in a recent movement to divest from banks that financed the pipeline-construction effort.

Members of the #noDAPL movement who spoke to Grist note that the complaint ignores the fact that the anti-pipeline effort was indigenous-led. The environmental groups primarily offered solidarity and some support -- Greenpeace, for example, donated a solar array to the protest camp.

A common refrain was that this complaint paints an alternative picture of reality. But it could also be the next step in a playbook that attempts to equate social justice campaigns with terrorism.

"This is full-scale, frontal military assault on the environmental community," says Daniel Sheehan, a constitutional lawyer and lead attorney for the Lakota People's Law Project. He notes that the lawsuit was filed by the law firm of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.

Sheehan says that the racketeering charge is totally unsubstantiated and points out that the suit centers primarily around defamation claims. It accuses the environmental groups of launching a campaign of misinformation, including spreading lies about how the pipeline was routed, that it would contribute to climate change, and the likelihood that it would leak. (By late May, there were three known leaks.)

Sheehan says the lawsuit was the latest salvo in a so-called "public diplomacy campaign," which began with the company's hiring of the private security firm TigerSwan last fall. As reported by Grist and The Intercept, TigerSwan portrayed the #noDAPL movement participants as, in Sheehan's words, "an armed enemy that is threatening their physical facility." That framing, he says, helped local law enforcement see protesters as violent adversaries. This lawsuit continues the narrative.

"They leap on Greenpeace because that's who most of their constituents recognize as the flagship of the environmentalist movement," Sheehan says.

Sheehan notes that many consider Earth First! -- whose motto is "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth" -- to be a radical group, so that might be why the Florida-based organization was added to the complaint. However, he says, "they were nowhere to to be seen" at Standing Rock.

Tara Houska, a tribal attorney and national campaigns director at the indigenous environmental nonprofit Honor the Earth called the complaint an example of a "SLAPP suit," which stands for "strategic lawsuit against public participation." "It's essentially a way to try to silence free speech by trying to cost the defendant -- organizations or movements or individuals, sometimes -- money," she says.

Among a litany of claims, the suit accuses the environmental law firm Earthjustice of challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' approval of the pipeline on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux as a way for the nonprofit to generate donations, by "aggressively publicizing" its association with the anti-pipeline effort.

The complaint refers to Earthjustice's legal action as a "curtain raiser" for the #noDAPL movement -- which the document calls "a sensational production of an international media spectacle."

"You see this characterization of big green groups trying to take advantage of the tribe and organizations on the ground," Houska says. "It is really patronizing and condescending."

In response to charges that the suit is an attempt to muzzle free speech, Energy Transfer Partners' attorney Michael J. Bowe, of the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, told Grist in a statement:
Only people who think you should be able to say with impunity anything, about anyone no matter how false would think this is a frivolous suit. Lies are not protected speech. Neither is destroying property and assaulting people.

It was demonstrably false to claim ETP was building on Native American land, was destroying sacred sites, had not exhaustively consulted with all relevant tribes, and employed violence on peaceful protesters. And it's demonstrably true that protesters destroyed property and assaulted employees and law enforcement. None of that is legitimate, protected speech, and, frankly, it serves no real environmental interest.


Anthony Diggs, the CEO of Veterans Stand, a group of ex-military personnel who joined the pipeline protests, says, "The only terrorists I saw during my time at Standing Rock were the law enforcement."

The former combat veteran who was previously deployed to Fallujah spent several weeks at Standing Rock this past winter. He recalls that officers constantly called protesters -- including him -- as "eco-terrorists" throughout his time in camp.

"If they set the legal precedent that people who were in that peaceful gathering were terrorists, that's trouble for the social justice movement," Diggs says.

Dallas Goldtooth, the national "Keep It In The Ground" campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network and a member of this year's Grist 50, says this lawsuit shows the power of the movement that took hold at Standing Rock. The #noDAPL effort, he explains, offered people a chance to express support for a more sustainable future -- a future that threatens the business prospects of companies like Energy Transfer Partners.

"They're scared -- we're affecting their bottom line," Goldtooth says. "The story we're bringing to the table is infectious, and it's beautiful."


Anti-protest Bills Would 'Attack Right to Speak Out' Under Donald Trump
Adam Gabbatt / The Guardian

The ACLU says more than 30 bills have been
introduced amid a huge swell of activism,
prompting UN intervention over
criminalization of peaceful protest




(May 8, 2017) -- More than 20 states have proposed bills that would crack down on protests and demonstrations since Donald Trump was elected, in a moved that UN experts have branded "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law".

The proposed laws would variously increase the penalties for protesting in large groups, ban protesters from wearing masks during demonstrations and, in some states, protect drivers from liability if they strike someone taking part in a protest.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said more than 30 separate anti-protest bills have been introduced since 8 November in "an unprecedented level of hostility towards protesters in the 21st century". Their introduction comes amid a huge increase in activism and engagement, much of it inspired by Trump's election to the presidency.

The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild have said many of the bills are likely unconstitutional. "The proposed bills have been especially pervasive in states where protests flourished recently," said Vera Eidelman, who works in the ACLU's speech, privacy and technology project.

"This flood of bills represents an unprecedented level of hostility towards protesters in the 21st century. And many of these bills attack the right to speak out precisely where the supreme court has historically held it to be the most robust: in public parks, streets and sidewalks."

The flurry of legislation has prompted UN experts to intervene, with two special rapporteurs from the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights -- the UN body which works to promote and protect human rights -- to complain to the US state department at the end of March.

In a recent letter to the government, David Kaye and Maina Kiai, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), listed specific pieces of legislation which they said were "criminalizing peaceful protests".

Kaye and Kiai, special rapporteurs on the freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly respectively, said the bills represent "a worrying trend that could result in a detrimental impact on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the country".

The legislation would "severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly," Kaye and Kiai wrote.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country took part in women's marches on 21 January, and since then scores of other actions have taken place against Trump and other elected officials.

A number of proposed laws -- some of which have already passed -- have been introduced in North Dakota,in an apparent response to the protests against the North Dakota Access pipeline. More than 1,000 people camped in Standing Rock for months in an attempt to stop the construction of the pipeline, and there were a number of clashes with police.

In Oklahoma, house bill 1123 passed the state house and senate and was sent to the governor on 27 April. If Mary Fallin, a Republican, signs the bill, it will increase penalties for trespassing on "critical infrastructure" including oil refineries and chemical manufacturing plants. Under the new law, damaging equipment in those facilities would be punishable by a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

In Tennessee, a bill is currently under consideration by the state senate which would give "civil immunity for the driver of an automobile who injures a protester who is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way if the driver was exercising due care".

The state's Republican governor, Bill Haslam, signed a separate bill into lawin April which increased the penalty for obstructing streets and highways in a way which restricts emergency vehicles. A similar bill is being considered in Minnesota.



The letter was particularly scathing about two bills signed into law by North Dakota's governor, Doug Burgum, in March. House bill 1304cracks down on people wearing masks or covering their faces at demonstrations; house bill 1426increased protest penalties from a class C felony to a class B felony if a "riot involves 100 or more persons", doubling the maximum prison sentence to 10 years.

For the purpose of the legislation, a riot is defined as "a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which, by tumultuous and violent conduct, creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function". It would likely be applicable to non-violent direct action, which protesters engaged in during the Dakota Access pipeline protests.

Both bills were seen as reactions to protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. The UN told the US state department that HB 1426 in particular "will highly increase penalties for participating in protests and therefore is likely to have a chilling effect on protesters in North Dakota".

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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