-House Bill Seeks Mandatory Prison Time for State Forest Protests-
Salem, Oregon. – A bill has been introduced to the Oregon legislature recently that would create a felony out of free speech and protest activities. HB-2595 clearly intends to stop the types of protest activities seen in the last four years on State forest lands. The language of the bill requires a mandatory minimum 13 month prison sentence for a first offense of failing to comply with orders to not hinder logging operations, with a second offense earning protestors a full 5 years in prison. This isn’t the first time such a bill has been attempted in Oregon. A similar bill, known as the “Interference with Agricultural Operations Bill”, was previously deemed unconstitutional when challenged by attorney Lauren Regan with the Civil Liberties Defense Center (see link below). Bills such as this are designed to have a chilling effect on citizens exercising their free speech rights to protest the management practices of the Oregon Department of Forestry.
HB 2595 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 4th at 1pm in room HR243 in the capital.
HB 2595 was introduced by Wayne Krieger of Golds Beach, Oregon,according to Jason Gonzales, of Friends of Oregon’s Forests who adds; “A read of Mr. Krieger’s campaign contributions easily demonstrates how connected he is to the industry of resource extraction in Oregon, with funding consistently coming from logging interests. In a time where budgets are being slashed, schools defunded, and taxpayers being asked to foot more and more bills for public safety, it is a wonder that any politician would attempt to impose a bill requiring minimum prison sentencing for non-violent protest activies that are currently prosecutable under other statutes. These desperate moves by industry funded politicians seeking to silence a public’s growing concern about climate change, and the industries that cause it, are intolerable and must be brought into the view of the public.” A link to Wayne Krieger’s campaign finances is available below.
A coalition of environmental groups are quickly coming together to combat this bill. Those groups will offer public testimony on Monday March 4th at the capital when HB 2595 comes up for an initial judiciary committee hearing. Many members of this coalition will be available for comment to the media immediately following the hearing in the Capital, and will be reachable at the contact numbers provided above.
“Our state politicians should be standing up for our public lands, not punishing the non-violent activists who do. Our prisons are overcrowded. It’s not only unethical, but also a waste of public money to apply mandatory minimum sentencing to civil disobedience,” said Grace Pettygrove of Cacadia Forest defenders.
Cascadia Forest Defenders (CFD), has spent years working to prevent clear cutting of Oregon’s state forests, with a strong focus on the Elliott State Forest, which is specifically mentioned in the bill. Many of the projects CFD has contested were enjoined by a lawsuit brought by conservation groups Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon Wild, when the presiding Judge agreed that it seemed likely that the Oregon Department of Forestry was violating the Endangered Species Act by destroying habitat for the marbled murrelet, that case is still awaiting trial. Under HB 2595, members of CFD could spend over a year in prison for trying to prevent these types of operations from taking place, even with an action as simple as standing in a road and refusing to move.
“Civil disobedience brings about great change, as when Ghandi’s use of non-violent protest gained India’s independence from the British Empire. It is a part of our American heritage from Henry David Thoreau to Martin Luther King Jr. To criminalize the peaceful protest of those committed to saving our native forests would be a violation of the democracy upon which our country was built and make martyrs of passionate young people trying to create a better world” said Cristina Hubbard Project Director of Forest Web, a Cottage Grove based conservation group.
Link to HB2595 text: http://www.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measures/hb2500.dir/hb2595.intro.html
For information regarding Wayne Krieger’s campaign contribution history, click the following link :
Krieger has publicly stated that contributions to his campaign buy access. Watch here.