Three years of Protect the Protest, but the fight is not over!
Three years ago a wide range of organizations across different sectors, including Greenpeace, Amazon Watch, ICAR, CLDC, and many others, launched the Protect the Protest task force taking aim at corporations and people in positions of power who use SLAPPs to try to limit free speech and silence critics.
We combined our expertise and collective power to protect the free speech of public interest advocates in the United States. An attack on one is now an attack on all. We believe that free speech, freedom of assembly, and peaceful dissent are fundamental pillars of democracy.
A growing number of corporations, law firms, and individuals are attempting to intimidate public watchdogs with a range of repressive tactics, notably “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (SLAPPs). SLAPPs masquerade as legitimate civil lawsuits, but are an abuse of the court system and a threat to democracy. For decades, powerful interests have filed these meritless lawsuits, knowing they can’t win but hoping to intimidate and silence public watchdogs.
Abusing the courts to silence free speech is part of a global trend. Attempts to close civic space have intensified around the world as those who speak truth to power are harassed, jailed, and even killed. Legislatures are passing laws to criminalize protests. Journalists are being restricted in their ability to report on sensitive issues.
Here is a look back at where it all started:
To celebrate the launch of the Protect the Protest task force, we assembled on the legendary Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise ship (once seized by President Putin in Russia for standing up against oil drilling in the Arctic) for a panel discussion by SLAPP suit survivors on why these legal intimidation practices remain a threat to good corporate governance and free speech.
- Moderator: Monika Bauerlein, Chief Executive Officer, Mother Jones
- David Greene, Senior Staff Attorney and Civil Liberties Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
- Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA
- Christopher J. Herrera, Director of Communications, Rainforest Action Network
- Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel, WikiMedia
- And people personally affected by SLAPP suits:
- Mike Masnick, Founder & CEO, TechDirt
- Jim Taylor, active SLAPP defendant, Water for the Citizens of Weed CA
- Sandy Steers, former SLAPP defendant, Friends of the Big Bear Valley, Fawnskin, CA.
We also held a launch event in New York City! Activists and advocacy groups threatened by SLAPPs rallied against corporate bullies like the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm to stand up for our First Amendment rights.
This New York-based firm had been hired by logging giants and oil pipeline companies to sue advocacy organizations like Greenpeace — as well as dozens of individual climate activists.
Since our launch…
- We’ve held anti-award ceremonies for the worst SLAPPers (and look out for our upcoming SLAPPies coming out later this month!)
- We’ve shared stories of SLAPP targets in our SLAPPed storytelling series
- We’ve stood with communities and activists facing SLAPP suits, including the Weed 9 and Krystal Two Bulls
- We’ve organized campaigns for anti-Chevron day, found creative ways to bring attention to Chevron dumping oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and spoke out in support of Steven Donziger.
- And much more!
We’re proud of the work we’ve gotten done, but we know there’s still so much to do to defend dissent. We hope you’ll join us in our next chapter.