I write regarding a recent Advocate article (“Protest a pipeline, become a felon? In Louisiana, that's possible. Groups challenging new law”), which indicated activists have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law passed last year that allows law enforcement to charge protesters with a felony for trespassing and vandalizing critical infrastructure, including pipelines.
Lawsuit abuse is rife in Louisiana, and the article seems to miss the importance of the law activists are fighting against. Pipeline protesters’ reckless demonstrations have shined light on legitimate safety concerns for law enforcement and workers. Pipeline opponents have fought with law enforcement, chained themselves to equipment, blocked access roads, kayaked onto easements, and refused to come down from trees blocking construction. Protesters have berated public officials, stormed meetings, and made it clear they are willing to do whatever it takes to prevent the completion of permitted energy infrastructure.
While the First Amendment and ability to protest is an important right, putting workers, law enforcement, and community members at risk is an unacceptable form of protest. Activists must be held accountable for unlawful actions. Take the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, for example, where thousands of activists from around the country descended on Morton County, North Dakota — leaving taxpayers with a $38 million bill to pay for law enforcement, cleanup, and other protest-related costs.
Louisiana taxpayers shouldn’t be left on the hook for the results of actions by a handful of extremists. Louisianians for Energy commends the state for taking the necessary measures to protect our critical infrastructure.
president, Louisianans for Energy