The government of Minnesota belongs to the people of Minnesota — not to outside corporate interests who write special laws for themselves that threaten our democracy.
Land Stewardship Project members know why free speech is so important. Since the 1980s, members across the state have been leveraging our collective power to fight against farm foreclosures, consolidation, co-opted co-ops, and more. Free speech and protest are some of our most effective tools when it comes to fighting for our communities and defending our land and water.
During the past two legislative sessions, the Land Stewardship Project and our allies successfully stopped efforts by corporate interests to weaken free speech rights, which would have disproportionately impacted Indigenous Minnesotans and other water protectors.
Yet the fight against anti-free speech legislation continues. Five dangerous bills have been reintroduced in the House and Senate. In fact, the Felony Free Speech Bill (SF 2011/HF 2241) is on the Senate floor, waiting for a vote! This bill lowers the bar on what types of protest constitute a felony charge AND creates a new felony trespass crime, which could lead to up to five years in prison. If enacted, this law would undermine our ability to exercise constitutional freedoms near “critical infrastructure” — pipelines, airports, energy plants, etc.
The Guilty by Association bills (SF 3230/HF 2966/HF 3668) are even more problematic. They criminalize individuals and organizations who attend or support a protest where critical infrastructure is damaged or where its operation is impeded by the protest action. This broad language criminalizes free speech, community organizing, and peaceful dissent, and is opposed by environmental, agricultural, Indigenous, and civil rights organizations, as well as labor unions. Again, it places the profit motives of corporations over the democratic rights of community members acting as stewards of the land.
We must ensure that these bills don’t make it to the Governor’s desk — or if they do, that he vetoes them. It is crucial that our elected officials hear from their constituents that free speech must be protected.
Corporate interests are pushing hard to pass this legislation. If we don’t speak up now, these bills could become law. We need to stand together to stop them.
Please, click here to tell your legislators that free speech is critical infrastructure and that these bills must be voted down in 2020 — and ask Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan to stand with Minnesotans and defend free speech.