Indigenous Peoples’ Religious Freedoms May Be Infringed By A New Wave Of Anti-Protest Laws
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in June 2021 for the Treaty People Gathering in opposition to Line 3, a crude oil pipeline proposed for construction across the historic homelands of the Ojibwe peoples in northern Minnesota.
Indigenous elders held a public religious rite to kick off the gathering. They offered prayers and sang songs to bless and sanctify the Mississippi River’s headwaters. They also prayed for the protesters, approximately 100 of whom were arrested later for trespassing and other acts of civil disobedience.
I’m interested in how Native Americans maintain their holy landscapes and how they combine protests with religion as an Indigenous scholar of religion and the environment.
And I see how police crackdowns on protests like the one at Line 3 could encroach on Indigenous people’s religious freedom.
In recent years, more than 30 states, including my home state of Montana, have implemented “anti-protesting” legislation to prevent the type of protest and civil disobedience that occurred at Line 3 in Minnesota.
The Minnesota legislature is now considering several anti-protest bills.
These new regulations significantly increase fines and prison sentences for individuals who are convicted.
A person found guilty of harming “vital infrastructure” in Montana, for example, faces a fine of up to $150,000 and a sentence of up to 30 years in jail. Those who aid demonstrators in Montana now face further charges. A person or group that “compensates, provides consideration to, or remunerates” protestors can be considered “vicariously liable” and receive similar terms even if they do not participate in civil disobedience.
The anti-protest laws contrast sharply with the lengthy history of civil disobedience as a strategy of social change in the United States, such as that used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others during the civil rights movement.
The “public, nonviolent, and conscious transgression of law” is known as civil disobedience. To put it another way, the goal of civil disobedience is to breach the law and get arrested in order to bring about societal change.
Jane Fonda, for example, started “fire drill Fridays” in 2019 to raise awareness about the impending global issue. Fonda and other celebrities and activists were detained every Friday at the US Capitol throughout the winter of 2019 and 2020.
However, the energy business and proponents of anti-protesting legislation have slammed this type of publicity-seeking civil disobedience.
Native Americans in the United States have. Brief News from Washington Newsday.