North Carolina Ups the Ante on Climate Protests

By scott parkin
banner off of the Progress Energy Coal Stack; via Greenpeace

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the North Carolina Legislature has ratified a law that makes trespass on a power generating utility property a felony.

My takeaway from this bit of news? This is how effective direct action in the climate movement is becoming: they’re trying to outlaw it.

And no wonder. In the Spring, Greenpeace organized a coal smokestack occupation of a Progress Energy facility near Asheville, NC. A couple of days later, they occupied the front of Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte. Then in May, they organized a coal train blockade on tracks going into another Progress Energy Facility outside of Charlotte.

This legislation comes on the heels of the Duke-Progress merger and, as Greenpeace campaigner Robert Gardner has recently said, it has clearly been passed to “further insulate Duke Energy from public protest.

In Raleigh-Durham, Croatan Earth First! has been building a campaign against the state’s burgeoning fracking industry. It’s only a matter of time before they begin to employ direct action tactics as well.

Writer Will Potter has been talking about these corporate strategies to stop direct action from impacting their bottom lines for quite some time. Corporations don’t like us negating their profits and, as we become more effective in our work, we’ll see more and more of this criminalization of protest.

It’s not just Duke Energy and North Carolina: other business sectors and states are seeking to criminalize the act of standing up for what’s right in the name of protecting corporate profits. For instance, the industrial agriculture industry worked with shadowy legislative front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Commission (or ALEC) to introduce state legislation targeting undercover investigations of factory farms. The FBI itself has referred to such undercover investigations as “terrorism.” And of course climate activist Tim DeChristopher, who derailed a federal land auction to save pristine Utah wilderness, received two years in federal prison and has been denounced as a terrorist on the floor of the Utah Legislature (who passed similar legislation in response to DeChristopher’s actions). The FBI visits Texas climate activists with no criminal records, even when no crimes have been committed, based purely on anonymous complaints from industry.

It’s a little bit ridiculous, but also revealing as to just how much we’re scaring them.

And what’s that old saying? “When you outlaw protest, only outlaws will protest.” Well, when you outlaw climate protest, only climate outlaws will protest. Expect more, North Carolina, expect more.