NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU of Louisiana will join Pastor Gregory Manning and the Coalition Against Death Alley (CADA) tomorrow (Wednesday, June 10) for a press conference urging Governor John Bel Edwards to veto House Bill 197, warning the bill would infringe on Louisianans’ First Amendment rights by imposing harsh prison sentences on individuals for merely being present at so-called “critical infrastructure” facilities.
“At a time of national mourning and protest against racial injustice, it is unconscionable that Louisiana legislators would attempt to subject people protesting environmental injustice and racism to harsh new prison sentences and hard labor,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “The residents of ‘Cancer Alley’ have been battling the corporate polluters who have poisoned their communities for decades, but this bill would have a chilling effect on their ability to make their voices heard. The people of Louisiana have a fundamental right to speak and assemble freely – without fear of harsh prison sentences or hard labor. We urge Governor Edwards to step in and protect the right to protest by vetoing HB 197.”
HB 197 proposes a mandatory sentence at hard labor from 3 to 15 years and a potential fine of up to $5,000 for anyone who enters a “critical infrastructure” site without permission during a “state of emergency” like COVID-19. This would curtail protest in areas on which chemical or other fossil fuel sites are being developed. For example, HB 197 would make it a serious felony to visit the slave grave sites on the FORMOSA development area.