Op-Ed by the True Idaho News Editorial Board
This Op-Ed includes an urgent call to action. Links to your legislators are below.
An Idaho lawmaker recently proposed legislation aimed at protecting critical infrastructure from damage caused by trespassers. On the surface, one might think HB 167 sounds reasonable, but the bill’s language is far too broad and far-reaching. If passed, the rights of Idahoans to peacefully assemble and protest would be decimated.
This bill is slated for a floor vote in the Idaho House of Representatives this coming week. Suffice it to say HB 167 is a horrible bill that does not align with Constitutional principles but instead aligns with the goals of the World Economic Forum to control a population. True Idaho News rarely issues any kind of “contact your legislator” warning, but this is one of those times.
Under the proposed law, calling for rallies or protests against unconstitutional statutes, regulations, or rules could become a criminal and civil offense. The bill would have a chilling effect on free speech and legitimate dissent, complete with both criminal and civil charges along with hefty financial penalties.
Broad, undefined terms will result in arbitrary political enforcement
In HB 167, the term “critical infrastructure” is broad and undefined. This means everything from food production facilities and restaurants to hospitals, health districts, and government facilities could be classified as “critical.” Under this bill, our Constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly would evaporate, as even peaceful protesters could be charged with criminal trespass simply because a facility is arbitrarily deemed “critical.”
A bill designed to bully and intimidate peaceful protestors
Furthermore, under the proposed legislation, protestors can be classified as felons, receiving up to 10 years in prison, and the bill holds organizations liable for $100,000 if one of their participants trespasses during a protest – even if he or she crosses an unknown invisible line.
HB 167 also allows ‘critical facilities’ to pursue a civil case against both the individual AND the organization that called for a protest. Thus, all top-down authoritarian executives and officials will be able to get away with draconian oppression. The mere fear of a $100,000 fine for each protestor would kill the motivation for any organization to push back against unconstitutional actions.
It should also be noted HB 167 destroys the rights of people on both sides of the political aisle. It would criminalize any person or group:
- protesting the creation of a nuclear waste facility
- picketing outside a financial services firm that bilked investors of millions
- protesting outside a regional health board meeting for mandating unlawful fines
- staging a protest at the location of a newly proposed mine or energy plant
- picketing a restaurant for any reason whatsoever
- objecting to the creation of high-emitting EMF cell phone towers
- protesting the creation of a chemical plant or a chemical dump
The list is endless. Simply stated, instead of protecting critical infrastructure, this bill creates an environment in which peaceful protesters could be criminalized and penalized simply for exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights of assembly and speech.
Trespass and criminal destruction laws already exist in Idaho
It’s important to note that this legislation is unlikely to deter any criminals’ intent on destruction and will only punish innocent citizens exercising their rights. Additionally, trespass and criminal destruction laws already exist in Idaho. HB 167 is not only unnecessary, it will have serious unintended consequences, including the destruction of both free speech and legitimate dissent.
It may sound hyperbolic but it is not – vital components of the First Amendment will be erased if HB 167 passes. Think of it this way: any “yes” vote on HB 167 is a vote forcing citizens to submit to a top-down authoritarian government. The Editorial Board of True Idaho News is calling on the state legislature to vote “no” on House Bill 167 and encourages all citizens to contact their legislators and request the same.
Find your district’s House Representatives here
Find your Representative’s email and phone number here
The Editorial Board of True Idaho News