Across the country, the right to resist injustice is under attack. In recent years, more than 20 states have passed bills to criminalize peaceful protest, often targeting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) activists. The specifics of these bills differ, but they have one thing in common: making life harder for people fighting back against police violence, environmental racism, and other forms of structural injustice.
One particularly dangerous set of bills would amp up criminal penalties for offenses related to oil and gas infrastructure. Fossil fuel companies and right-wing lobbyists started pushing these so-called “critical infrastructure” bills in the wake of the Standing Rock protests, which showed the world the power of Indigenous activists defending their Native sovereignty and right to a livable climate.
Now, more than 10 states have passed measures that would put people away for long stretches, just for “trespassing” near pipelines, “tampering with” fossil fuel facilities, and other nonviolent acts. In many cases, these bills are so vaguely worded that people might not even know if they are breaking the law. In other places, they needlessly duplicate penalties for offenses—like trespassing and sabotage—that are already on the books.
Redundant criminal laws serve no valid legal purpose. Such measures are plainly an attempt to intimidate people from expressing dissent and chill our First Amendment rights. By swelling the number of people in for-profit prisons, meanwhile, these bills also put even more lives at risk from COVID-19 outbreaks. It is no coincidence that the lobbyists behind these bills are, in many cases, those best-positioned to profit off mass incarceration.
UUSC is working with grassroots partners across the country to fight back against these unjust laws and protect the right to resist. Check back on this page regularly for updates on how to take action.
- Download our Right to Resist Toolkit, featuring resources for how you and your community can take faith-based action to resist criminalizing bills in your state. The Toolkit includes sample written testimony, press materials, letters to the editor, and more.
- Join in solidarity with the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, who are organizing to oppose Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals that threaten their land, air, and rights as Native people—even while they face new risks under Texas’ “critical infrastructure” law.
- Take action with Love Resists, a joint campaign of UUSC & the UUA, to urge Congress to protect the lives of Indigenous loved ones and all other people confined in federal prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently several Indigenous inmates in the federal prison system who were incarcerated for their activism against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2017.