New Fascist Laws Criminalize Peaceful Protest in Dozens of States:
The Case of Oklahoma

May 9, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


100 days of fascism. Basta ya! Enough!

As Democratic Party operatives and media mouthpieces normalize fascism by spreading complacency about the Trump/Pence regime—laughing at their missteps, claiming that in their first 100 days they “haven’t accomplished anything”—what is actually spreading is the fascist reorganization of society. And this is chillingly evident in the wave of state laws that criminalize many of the forms of bold, peaceful protest—street marches, sit-ins, civil disobedience, protest encampments—that have involved hundreds of thousands in recent years.

Right after Trump’s inauguration, activists had identified eight states that had introduced them. As of April 2, barely two months later, the number has more than doubled to at least 19 according to Common Dreams.

Recently The Intercept pointed to two new laws in Oklahoma—one already in effect, the other soon to be—that take repressive laws to a new level by imposing draconian punishments on protesters who commit very minor infractions of the law.

In Oklahoma, ordinary nonpolitical trespass is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $250 fine. If you damage or steal property during this trespass, then you face a maximum of six months in jail.

But under the new law, trespassing in the course of protesting at a so-called “critical infrastructure facility” (like a gas or oil facility) is a felony, carrying up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. And if property is damaged or facility operations are “impeded,” sentences jump to a possible 10 years in jail and $100,000 fines.

Beyond punishing protesters themselves, any organization “found to be a conspirator” with the protester—for instance, a group that calls a protest at which civil disobedience or trespassing occurs—faces crippling fines of up to $1,000,000! And the second bill (not yet a law) would subject anyone who “compensates” a protester (which could include letting someone who is later arrested stay at your house!) with civil liability (i.e., they could be sued for recovery of any damage the protester they “compensated” is accused of causing.)

These laws are explicitly aimed at stamping out political protest. The second bill's author, Rep. Mark McBride, told the press he was motivated by the encampment and mass protests at Standing Rock North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protests that rocked the country and the world, inspiring greater and fiercer resistance among many sections of people, and infuriating the defenders of this unjust system.

Oklahoma fascists fear this kind of resistance spreading. Oklahoma is a major center of the oil and gas industry. Widespread “fracking” (extracting petroleum products by a process of violently “fracturing” underground rock) has destabilized the land so badly that Oklahoma is now the earthquake capital of the world, with 881 earthquakes in 2015 alone. Frequent earthquakes make the huge oil and gas facilities, and especially the pipelines that crisscross the state, even more dangerous to lakes and rivers, farmland, and to sacred sites of Native American people which are near or traversed by them. This has already sparked significant struggle.

Oklahoma is the home of almost 300,000 Native Americans from 39 tribal nations—many of whom are descendants of tribes force-marched across the country from their homes in the infamous “Trail of tears“ in which many thousands died. As at Standing Rock, many Native people oppose the destruction and desecration of cultural and religious sites, as well as the destruction of the land and water. And they have been forging common struggle with other sections of the people—environmentalists, farmers, rural and city people—to oppose new pipelines.

In January, a coalition of these forces announced plans to establish a protest encampment against the Diamond Pipeline, which will carry crude oil from Oklahoma toward Tennessee. The new bills now aim to make people pay an extremely high price for resisting.

The initial response has been inspiring defiance. Mekasi Camp Horinek, a member of the Ponca Nation and a leader of Bold Oklahoma, told The Oklahoman newspaper that the movement won’t be deterred; referencing the civil rights movement of the 1960s he said that “Without those people who were willing to sacrifice themselves and put themselves in a position to nonviolently break the law,” people would not have overcome many of the oppressive laws of those days. And he said that “I’m going to stand up and do what I feel is right for my family, for my people, and the people of this state.”

This orientation is completely righteous and everyone should rally to it. At the same time, it is clear that this wave of repressive state laws—with the Oklahoma bills breaking new ground—constitutes a major step towards the complete fascist suppression of all serious dissent and protest in the U.S. That is the shape of things to come—and not far off at all!—if we fail to drive this fascist regime from power, and fight to carry out a whole different and liberating transformation of society through revolution.


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