InsideSources, Duluth News Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and Odessa American recently published an op-ed by GAIN Strategic Adviser James “Spider” Marks regarding the detrimental impact of illegal protester antics. Anti-energy protesters claim to be protecting the environment – but their tactics, from arson to valve-turning, do the exact opposite and perhaps do more harm than good.
In recent years, fringe activists have demonstrated an increasing willingness to “abandon the virtues of civil disobedience for a more aggressive set of tactics.” Despite activist claims of being peaceful – their tactics often involve breaking the law and putting first responders and innocent bystanders at risk. As Marks argues, “Deliberately tampering with or destroying critical infrastructure is not a form of protest.”
Marks references a recent incident in Minnesota where four activists who have referred to themselves as the ‘Four Necessity Valve Turners” broke into a secure facility and attempted to close the valves controlling the flow of oil through several pipelines. He also notes that this is not an isolated incident, writing:
Equally alarming to these actions are the guerilla-style attacks targeting pipeline construction sites. Last month arsonists caused more than $500,000 in damage after they set fire to construction equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline worksite in Virginia. Meanwhile, eco-saboteurs targeted a Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site in Pennsylvania last year that also resulted in costly damage to heavy machinery.
The response to this illegal behavior — both in the media and in the courtroom — would be vastly different had the attacks been carried out by foreign-based terrorists. Instead, they are barely noticed. Perpetrators are lauded as heroes in the environmental community and afforded lenient punishments — many even have their charges dropped.
The right to peacefully protest is foundational to our democracy and an important facet to driving participation in the public policy process. Sabotaging critical infrastructure is not a form of protest — it is an illegal act that should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.