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Government & Politics

Group Rallies Against Bill Limiting Protest Activity at Pipelines, Other Critical Infrastructure

photo of Pipeline
Senate Bill 33 would restrict protests near critical infrastructure facilities like pipelines

An advocacy group is opposing a bill that would restrict protests at sites that are considered "critical infrastructure facilities."

Organize Ohio hosted a meeting in Cleveland Monday to discuss opposition to Senate Bill 33.

It has been approved in the Ohio Senate, and is under consideration in the Ohio House. The measure would criminalize protests occurring at places such as pipelines or utility poles.

Jacie  Jones of Organize Ohio believes the bill would continue the "chilling effect" happening in other states where similar bills have passed.

"When they hear about this bill and the effects, they become scared to go out and protest different environmental issues or concerns because they don’t want to be charged with felonies and subjected to the fines and prison sentences that would entail."

Jones says legislation like this grew out of demonstrations, such as Standing Rock in North Dakota.

State Senator John Ecklund cosponsored the bill. He says protecting critical infrastructure outweighs concerns that it will limit freedom of speech.

While Ecklund understands critics' point of view, he does not believe the bill will interfere with any rights.

"What was put forth by some as this notion that this was going to muffle dissent or impede people's exercise opf their first amendment rights I thought was unfounded," Ecklund said, "So on balance, I thought the protections it afforded were more important and outweighed the risk of any potential harm."

Ecklund said this bill is necessary to protect both protesters and property from harm in the wake of incidents in past years that have damaged infrastructure. The bill has been approved by the Senate and is being considered by the Ohio House of Representatives.