BISMARCK, N. D. – Twenty environmental and civil liberties groups to fight back against lawsuits they believe are aimed at limiting the freedom of expression and the silencing of critics.
The “Protection of the Protest” task force announced Tuesday targets what are known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP, which make use of legal action and the threat of financial risks to deter people and groups to speak out against something they are against.
“We know from our own experience that this is legal bullying tactics will work if it is not shut down,” said Katie Redford, co-founder and director of EarthRights International.
The effort is to billboard ads, training for journalists and non-profits, panel discussions, and meetings outside the offices of the companies, the groups believe that the use of such lawsuits.
Meetings are scheduled next week in San Francisco, New York and Dallas. Dallas is the basis for Energy Transfer ners, the company that was built on the Dakota Access oil pipeline and sued Greenpeace, the Earth and BankTrack, for up to $1 billion for allegedly working to undermine the $3.8 billion project to move North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois.
Greenpeace and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is also involved in the help defend against that lawsuit, are under the Protection of the Protest of the participants.
Spokeswomen for ETP not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The company’s lawsuit filed a year ago, the environmental groups disseminated false and misleading information about the project and interfered with the construction. ETP is of the opinion that the groups’ actions interfered with her activities, facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism, incited violence and targeted the financial institutions that supported the project and the violation, defamation and racketeering laws. The groups maintained the lawsuit was an attack on free speech.
U. S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson this summer dismissed both BankTrack and the Earth First, as defendants. He said ETP is not a case that on the Earth is an entity that can be sued, and that BankTrack’s actions in begging banks not to finance the pipeline not a radical ecoterrorism.
EarthRights International helped to defend BankTrack, assistance that Redford said illustrates the type of collective efforts of the task force will bring.
Wilson also ordered ETP to clarify his claims on Greenpeace, and has given the group until September. 4 to its response to ETP’s amended complaint.
Greenpeace USA Director Annie Leonard on Tuesday said a $300 million lawsuit filed against the group by the Canadian timber industry with the protection of the forests advocacy is another example of the type of lawsuits, the task force hopes the fight.
“In a healthy democracy is a prerequisite for a healthy environment, and we can’t have a healthy democracy without an informed, concerned public opinion,” she said.
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