HARRISBURG – Taxpayers would be protected against the cost of pipeline and other protests under a proposal announced today by Senator Scott Martin (R-13).
In light of the costs incurred by taxpayers during other protest events across the country, Martin’s plan would allow for the recovery of costs related to a protest or demonstration in which a person is convicted of rioting or public nuisance. The bill would ensure protesters are held accountable for any damages they cause, as well as any other costs resulting from the demonstration.
Martin noted that local demonstrations regarding the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline have been peaceful and said the legislation would be designed in a way that balances the First Amendment rights of protesters with the need to ensure taxpayers are not asked to pay exorbitant costs for emergency response, property damage and clean-up.
“The rights of free speech, assembly and petition are part of the bedrock of our democracy, but nobody should have the right to cause property damage or create a dangerous situation for innocent bystanders, and later expect taxpayers to pay for it,” Martin said. “Nothing in this bill will infringe upon the rights of protesters in any way. It simply ensures that when individuals or groups gather to protest, taxpayers aren’t stuck paying the tab for the associated costs.”
Martin hosted a presentation this week via teleconference with officials from areas affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, which created nearly $40 million in additional costs to state and local taxpayers. Local government leaders, law enforcement and other emergency responders were invited to participate in order to help ensure any protest directed at the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project could be handled in a peaceful manner that does not create a burden on taxpayers.
“Dakota Access Pipeline protesters created an environment that was so dangerous, the National Guard was called in and school buses could not travel through the area without a police escort. Nobody benefits from a situation like that,” Martin said. “I appreciate the fact that local protesters have remained generally peaceful and respectful of others and have committed to a non-violent approach. They deserve a great deal of credit for that. However, if the situation deteriorates to a point similar to the violent and destructive Dakota Access Pipeline protests, then protesters should not be able to walk away from the damage they cause without consequence and expect first responders and taxpayers to deal with the fallout.”
CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535