Repercussions for both supporters and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) are piling up.
The City of Seattle is pulling its business from Wells Fargo, some $3 billion in accounts, due to both the bank’s support for DAPL and its bogus account scandal, news reports say. Meanwhile, the state of North Dakota is considering bills to toughen punishments for the kinds of protests taking place against DAPL, a legislative trend that is sweeping the country.
One bill in the North Dakota legislative hopper would remove liability for drivers who run over protesters standing in a roadway, as long as it is “unintentional.”
The city of Seattle City Council voted unanimously to stop doing business with Wells Fargo, according to a story by Minnesota Public Radio. Seattle’s contract with Wells Fargo expires at year’s end and the city will not renew it. The bid for city’s next banking partner would “incentivize ‘Social Responsibility,'” the story said. A great idea.
The city of Davis, Calif. also voted to stop doing business with Wells Fargo, MPR reported. It will take $124 million worth of accounts to another bank by the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, the North Dakota legislature is considering protest-punishing bills, according to a Monday story in the Bismarck Tribune: House approves most DAPL protest bills:
For starters, the North Dakota House has passed legislation that doubles the penalties for creating a riot involving 100 or more people, to a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. The penalty for participating in a riot would increase from a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine to up to a year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
Comment: This would be particularly tricky for those organizing, or participating in, peaceful and prayerful protest. What happens if they get caught in a situation where a few outside agitators provoke a law enforcement reaction? According to the story, a person would be guilty of a riot if they failed to disperse when ordered, even if they remained peaceful. These are very stiff penalties, clearly meant to deter and/or quickly disperse DAPL-type protests.
House Bill 1193 would create a new Class C felony “for causing $1,000 or more in economic harm while committing a misdemeanor,” the story said.
Comment: “Economic harm” seems like a pretty fuzzy term. It is not defined in the legislation. The $1,000 in economic harm is a very low threshold to trigger a felony. The example given in the news story was the economic harm done by protestors chaining themselves to equipment and delaying construction. A delay of even 15 minutes could be said to cost $1,000. Further, the term “economic harm” could be applied to something much more innocuous, like the cost of people’s time stuck in traffic delays caused by a protest. Depending on how it is applied, this bill could create many felons.
Another bill creates a $250 citation for trespassing where it is posted.
Comment: A good money generator for the state. A strong deterrent for poor people to protest.
The Senate still needs to act on the proposals, but the bills have been “fast tracked,” the story said. They carry an “emergency clause” which means they go into immediate effect as soon as the governor signs them.
An LA Times story reported on a particularly disturbing bill introduced in the North Dakota legislature. It “would make it legal for drivers to run over protesters who are standing in a roadway, clearing drivers of any liability, as long as their action was ‘unintentional.’”
The Times story put this bill in the context of a larger national trend:
The bill is just one of a raft of new pieces of legislation that have been introduced around the country to discourage or criminalize protest — even as large demonstrations over environmental issues, police shootings and the policies of President Trump have been surging across the country.