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Injunction against pipeline demonstrators; free speech protected

March 20, 2013

Pike County President Judge Joseph Kameen granted a special injunction on March 18, prohibiting civil disobedience in relation to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) project in and around Milford. However, the judge also included special protections for free speech rights.

TGP was seeking relief from the actions of five demonstrators who sat in trees and otherwise acted to block the attempts of the company to clear trees from the pipelines route.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, sought relief against residents’ attempts to speak in favor of and enact civil disobedience blocking controversial pipeline construction.

According to a press release from the group Save Cummins Hill, which has been fighting the pipeline project, in its filing TGP requested the judge bar up to 100 Jane Does and John Does “from speaking in favor of civil disobedience on roads leading to construction and in the right-of-way.”

Susan Lyons, a lawyer who is representing the five defendants without charge, said, “It is clear that the company has been preparing this case for weeks and we had only hours to prepare. We’re glad that Judge Kameen included specific language to protect First Amendment rights. Now thousands of Pike County residents who object to the pipeline are free to speak in favor of the tradition of civil disobedience.”

The judge’s order, however, raises the stakes for any future civil disobedience. If the defendants trespass on the pipeline right-of-way again, or block access roads in Pike County, they will be liable for TGP’s attorneys’ fees as well as criminal charges.