Beware of HB 2995 and 2596
A March 10 News-Review article informed readers about Rep. Wayne Krieger’s proposal of two bills, HB 2995 and 2596. One would create a felony charge of interference with state forestland management and the other would permit logging companies to sue protesters for lost income. Rep. Krieger claimed it was a response to a “reign of terror by [protesters who have] no respect for the rights of others.” While giving lip service to free speech and mouthing respect for civil disobedience, he then presented a laundry list of acts of civil disobedience that this bill would criminalize, specifically protestors chaining themselves to trees and equipment or using their own bodies to block roads.
There is no reign of terror. There have been protests opposing logging and there have been court battles, but there have been no deaths or physical threats against people by environmental protestors. The Foundation for Biomedical Research, a group which tracks crimes it calls “ecoterrorism,” produced a list of the top 20 illegal actions by animal and forest protestors from 1996-2006. Unlike the actions of real terrorists, the research group could not attribute a single injury or death to these protests.
Rep. Krieger cannot have it both ways. He cannot simultaneously support free speech and support these bills intended to suppress free speech. When laws are erected to ban nonviolent protest, the stage is set for violent protest. Civil society is threatened more by violence than it is by the free exercise of speech.
These bills proposed by Rep. Krieger are a reflection of his own economic self-interest as a tree farmer. The protests happen because lawmakers already prioritize the biases of economics over the facts of science. Perhaps Representative Krieger is the one who has, in his own words, “no respect for the rights of others.”