INDIANAPOLIS – On Monday, the Indiana House Committee on Judiciary will hear Senate Bill 471. According to proponents, the bill is meant to protect “critical infrastructure” from damages that occur during protests. However, existing Indiana laws already prohibit trespassing and property damage.
Under SB 471, if one protestor is arrested for trespassing or damages, all other organizations and groups involved in the protest would be at risk of fines as high as $100,000. Groups opposing the bill fear it will weaken First Amendment rights by threatening to entrap individuals practicing their constitutional right to protest.
ACLU of Indiana Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Katie Blair issued this statement:
“Senate Bill 471 is part of a nationwide push by special interest groups working to suppress free speech. High profile and effective campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Standing Rock protest against oil and gas pipelines, have come increasingly under fire from powerful interests looking to squash legitimate challenges to corporate actions and policies.
"Legislators are using protection of “critical infrastructure” as a guise to chill free speech. This legislation would harm lawful protests more than it would hinder unlawful conduct. SB 471 seeks to circumvent First Amendment protections by making all lawful protestors responsible for the behavior of a few. A person cannot lawfully be prosecuted for using truthful information to sway public opinion. That is an attack on our constitutional rights – one that the ACLU of Indiana will resist.”