On Wednesday, HB4615, the anti-protest bill targeting the little guy standing up for their rights, was heard in Senate Judiciary after passing the House a few weeks ago. The bill was amended in the committee, lessening penalties, and making limited exceptions, but we still OPPOSE THIS BILL.
To view the committee’s discussion and vote on the bill, click here. The conversation begins at 4:59 PM. We had testimonies from Neal Laferriere, Beth Laferriere, and Karan Ireland.
Changes: Trespassing on a “critical infrastructure” is now a misdemeanor, with a fine of $250-$1000. If a person or organization conspires to trespass, it is now a misdemeanor, not a felony. The felony charge remains for damaging etc. a critical infrastructure remains.
The bill disproportionately affects land owners where a pipeline right of way has been placed on their land. In this instance, the land owner still OWNS the land, while the corporation LEASES, yet the landowner is guilty of trespassing. For example, Becky Crabtree was arrested for protesting a pipeline on her family farm. Under this bill, the penalties would have been much harsher.
Protest was a foundational tenant for American democracy, and since our foundling days, protest has been essential in raising awareness about injustices to bring about social reforms. From the Sons of Liberty at the Boston Tea Party to Rosa Parks, our history is full of civil disobedience that shaped our country.
This bill seeks to further marginalize and criminalize those who dare to try right wrongs. This bill seeks to protect corporations over people, aims to protect those whose pollution trespasses on public health and safety, whose pollution trespasses into our air, water, land, and bodies, and whose actions trespass upon our property rights, and who, with this bill seek to trespass on our right to protest those very trespasses.
Bills like HB 4615 have been popping up in State Houses around the nation. The templates for these types of bills come from a group called ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council. The Koch brother billionaires are huge funders of ALEC. Many other corporations also fund ALEC.
Now the bill heads to the Full Senate and likely will be on First reading today, Thursday. We believe this bill will come down to the wire on Saturday night.
We urge you to reach out to the full senate and urge rejection of this bill. Make your voices heard and stand up for all West Virginian citizens, who matter more than large corporations. Find phone numbers and emails here.
We are prepared for several outcomes of this bill, most likely a Conference Committee, as the House will have to concur with the Senate changes to the bill. We will keep you updated!