Dear Editor: I’m very concerned that some Wisconsin legislators who otherwise vote in favor of the environment and freedom of expression may favor AB 426, called the “Felony Trespass Bill,” which passed the Assembly on a voice vote Oct. 10. Supporters say that the six-year felony sentences and $10,000 fines that could result from a protest on an energy company’s land are necessary to protect energy workers. But it’s already a serious crime to attack people, and such attacks are repugnant to environmentalists seeking an end to the burning of fossil fuels.
When water protectors sit down or lock down in an effort to stop a pipeline project that could devastate a river, lake, or aquifer, they deserve our support. Assurances from the bill’s supporters that “First Amendment-protected activities” are exempted from prosecution are naïve. That will be up to the police, district attorney and judge, and we’ve seen them treating peaceful protesters like dangerous criminals in places like Standing Rock.
As we transition away from fossil fuels, we need to focus on protecting those who are risking arrest to call our attention to unsafe pipeline conditions that threaten the community, unlawful workplace safety violations that threaten workers’ lives and the climate consequences of burning fossil fuels.
If this bill, which is being heavily pushed by the American Petroleum Institute and other "Big Oil" organizations, also passes the Wisconsin Senate, we need Gov. Evers to do the right thing and veto it. I urge readers to contact their senators and governor today.
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