Doug Ericksen’s Nose is Out of Joint

1 year ago Citizen#7 0

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1902-1932) is attributed to have said “The right to swing my arms in any direction ends where your nose begins.”

Sen. Ericksen said “American citizens have a constitutional right to assemble, to speak freely, and to petition their government via protests,” Ericksen said.  “There is no constitutional right to harm other people or to harm the rights of other American citizens.”

Sen. Doug Ericksen (R) appears to have his nose out of joint regarding protesters. He’s introduced Senate Bill 5009 “Preventing Economic Disruption Act”. The bill is aimed at fossil fuel protesters. His bill defines “Economic Disruption” as:


Influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; and

Obstruct, hinder, or delay the passage of any train, truck, car, ship, boat, aircraft, or other vehicle or vessel engaged in the carriage, hauling, transport, shipment, or delivery of goods, cargo, freight, or other item, in commerce; or

Interferes with, tampers with, damages, or obstructs any pipeline facility, bulk oil terminal, marine terminal, tank car, waterborne vessel or barge, or power plant.

Ericksen’s legislation goes farther, by including accomplices who are defined as having knowledge that will promote or facilitate the commission of the crime; he or she solicits, commands, encourages, or requests the other person to commit the crime or aids or agrees to aid the other person in planning or committing the crime.

Anyone found guilty of Economic Disruption could be fined triple the amount of the victim’s loss or the offender’s gain and or jailed up to 12 months in addition to any other crimes the person was found guilty of.

Washington has a law called Malicious Mischief. If found guilty of this crime a person could face up to $20,000 in fines and 10 years in prison. Malicious Mischief includes:

Creating a substantial risk of interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by physically tampering with an emergency vehicle or property of the state, a political subdivision thereof, or a public utility or mode of public transportation, power, or communication.

Doesn’t this cover what Sen. Ericksen is out of joint about?

The First Amendment says,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Free Speech includes “symbolic speech”, conduct that conveys a particular message.

On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats, passive resistance and a peaceful sit-down. The students’ conduct conveyed a particular message that those present and those who read about it clearly understood.

Would their refusal to leave be considered “Economic Disruption”? Would anyone uttering support for protesters be subject to fine and or jail time for encouraging protesters? Would fining someone under Malicious Mischief and then finding them guilty of “Economic Disruption” for the same acts be considered “Double Jeopardy”?

It would seem that this legislation as written raises a number of questions.

To read Senate Bill 5009 click Senate Bill 5009.