Such individuals, operating through a group called L'eau Est La Vie Camp, have run afoul of a new law that, under felony penalties, prevents interference with construction and operation of pipelines. Utilizing the new statute, authorities have arrested a baker’s dozen trying to obstruct building of the Bayou Bridge pipeline.
Along the way, some of those arrested may have encountered government overreach. Some arrests, while legal, appear to have exceeded a state mandate for personnel use, which caused the state to withdraw off-duty law enforcement officials working on pipeline security. Others arrests may have occurred on land where questions have arisen about whether the builders have legal rights-of-way, which the courts may have to sort out.
This tough love finally caught the attention of the immature protesters; nothing like the prospect of facing considerable jail time to wake you up to the reality you have created. Now in panic mode, they seek to assert all arrests void because the law. According to their mouthpiece: “We are going to be challenging the law and the way it was used in all these arrests …. We have to protect the right to dissent.”
Good luck with trying to reverse the arrests on that basis. The builders have the right to do their thing on legal rights-of-ways they have obtained, and nothing suggests there’s a constitutional right to impede use of private movable property associated with that construction and activities related to that. Pipeline opponents haven’t lost any “right of dissent” in having their free expression activities limited to nearby areas where they have permission to protest, and they had plenty of chances to register this dissent through elections and as part of the regulatory and permitting process.
But they lost the public policy argument on the merits, and so like spoiled brats they try to impose their losing anti-democratic sentiments by violating the rule of law, which they don’t think applies to them because they consider themselves the law. With those attitudes, no doubt they’d go far in the bureaucracy of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
Even as no judicial justification exists to overturn the law, government must take care that it carries out the new language in statute lawfully. At the same time, no one is above the law or Constitution. Prosecutors need to throw the book at these violators to teach them that and to discourage others from believing they can use bullying tactics to force their views onto others and into public policy.
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