Below are letters between Keep Free Speech Free organizers and Senator Scott Martin. PDF versions are available at the top of each letter.
Letter to Sen. Scott Martin (May 17, 2019)
To: Senator Scott Martin
From: Lancaster Against Pipelines & Lancaster Stands Up
Date: May 17, 2019
Subject: Protecting Free Speech Rights
Dear Senator Martin,
Please accept this invitation to meet us at your Lancaster office (48-50 W. Chestnut St.) on Friday, May 31, at 4:00 PM.
We’d like to tell you, face to face, how we feel about your sponsorship of recent bills designed to suppress our First Amendment rights here in Pennsylvania. As a public servant, your duty is to work on behalf of Pennsylvania’s local communities, especially the most vulnerable among us. However, you consistently put industry profits over the wellbeing of the people and the environment.
Here’s one example. Since you entered the PA Senate in 2016, communities all across the state have expressed overwhelming opposition to the forced installation of fracked gas pipelines. Many reasons have fueled this opposition. For starters, we know that fossil fuels pose the greatest threat to the future of our planet. But we also understand that the gas and oil industry is part of a larger pattern of exploitation that disproportionately harms women, children, people of color, indigenous communities, and the poor.
Out of moral conviction, we called you to stand with your people against corporate greed. But rather than defend your own communities, you sided with corporate elites by pushing legislation that would literally imprison and bankrupt the very communities calling you to fulfill your oath of office.
Here are just a few of the ways you’ve betrayed the public trust since taking office:
- In 2017, you arranged for North Dakota politicians, police, military personnel, and fossil fuel reps to “teach” our local law enforcement how to suppress local opposition to dangerous new pipelines here in PA. These were the same North Dakota officials responsible for human rights abuses against indigenous women, children, and elders who were working to protect their treaty rights, drinking water, and sacred sites at Standing Rock.
- In 2018, you co-sponsored Senator Mike Regan’s Senate Bill 652. The bill amended existing criminal statutes in order to make grassroots pipeline resistance a felony in Pennsylvania, punishable by prison time. The bill passed the PA Senate before stalling in the house.
- Now in 2019, you’re the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 323, which is yet another attempt to chill free speech. The bill would charge PA residents for police response costs associated with local protests, regardless of the issue. Shockingly, the bill’s language specifically targets “vigils and prayer services” that address social issues.
Given the contempt you’ve shown toward your constituents, toward the most vulnerable in our communities, toward the environment, and toward our First Amendment rights, we’re holding a public event in Lancaster City on Friday, May 31, at 3:00 PM in Binns Park. Immediately following the rally, attendees will walk around the corner to visit your office. We want to share with you, in very personal terms, why we’re committed to defending our Free Speech rights.
We’re asking you to meet us at your office at 4:00 PM.
To be clear: we are not inviting you to address us. We are not inviting you to a public debate. We are inviting you to listen to the voices of your people. We have a lot to say to you.
Please confirm your acceptance of this open invitation at your earliest convenience.
Sen. Scott Martin’s Response (May 22, 2019)
From: Martin, Senator Scott <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, May 22, 2019 at 4:09 PM
Subject: Invitation to Meet
Dear Lancaster Against Pipelines & Lancaster Stands Up,
Thank you for your correspondence that I received recently. I would be happy to meet with a couple of your designated representatives to discuss the Cost Reimbursement Bill (SB 323). Unfortunately, I am not available at the lone date and time you requested. However, I am available at the following dates and times:
May 29, from 3:30pm to 4:30pm
June 6 from 10:00am-11:00am or 2:00pm-3:00pm
Please let me know if any of these work for you so we can discuss the specifics of the legislation and how we can insure that First Amendment rights are protected, while ensuring that taxpayers are not left to pay the price by those who go beyond their First Amendment rights and decide to commit crimes that harm individuals or destroy property.
I have attempted to set up meetings on multiple occasions with members of your group; Mark Clatterbuck,
Tim Spiese and Ben Fitzkee; back in May 2017, when the legislation was first introduced last session, but
they refused to meet. In addition, I had mentioned to Melinda Clatterbuck on Election Day last
November, at our polling location, that I would be interested in meeting to discuss this issue. As I told her then and will reinforce now, my interest is to protect First Amendment rights and not have those impacted by this bill. My interest is to hold individuals accountable who choose to cause harm to individuals or destroy property. This same concept is currently in law for those who engage in Terroristic Threats.
That being said, I look forward to sitting down with you and engaging in this dialogue. Though I and the broader Lancaster County community are aware of the views your groups have on topics like the Cost Reimbursement Bill, fracking or pipelines, it’s important to note that not everybody thinks the same way. Regardless, it’s okay to disagree and engage in a productive dialogue that may find some sort of common ground.
Please let me know if any of the dates or times above work. I look forward to meeting with a couple of your representatives to discuss this important issue. If not, we can go back to the calendar to identify some more.
Thanks and have a great day!
Senator Scott Martin
13th Senatorial District
Senate Box 203013
Main Capitol 459 Harrisburg, PA 17120-3013
Toll Free: 1-800-235-1313
48-50 W. Chestnut Street Suite 308
Lancaster, PA 17603
Reply to Sen. Scott Martin (May 24, 2019)
May 24, 2019
Senator Scott Martin:
We received your letter of May 22. We are disappointed to learn that you’ve declined our invitation to a public listening session with your own constituents regarding SB323.
Your ongoing refusal to meet in a space of public accountability says an awful lot about your work as an elected official. Maybe more than you intended.
On the one hand: your refusal to hear community members express their opinions on legislation that threatens our First Amendment rights speaks volumes about your priorities.
On the other hand: your counter-offer to hold a private, closed-door session with a “couple” of our “designated representatives”—where no one is held publicly accountable for their words—is also very telling. Apparently, you’re so accustomed to meeting with special interest groups seeking closed-door access to your political influence that you’ve forgotten how to meet the very people you vowed to serve when you assumed public office.
We’re taking off work, leaving school early, and rearranging our schedules to speak with you publicly about your proposed bill. If you valued the voices of your people, you’d make it a priority to be there, too.
Unfortunately, your own words betray your true priorities. Just today, while defending your decision to target local pipeline protests, you’re quoted in LNP as saying: “Nobody has a right to cause damage to another person’s property, create a dangerous situation for community residents and first responders, or create an expensive mess for someone else to clean up” (Signs Decry Protest Billing, 5/24/19).
We couldn’t agree more. Except the threat to “property,” “community residents,” and “first responders” in this scenario is not local residents defending family and farm through peaceful protest. It’s the $50-billion pipeline company that forcibly seized land against our will, and the explosive, high-pressure, fracked gas pipeline now running beside our homes and schools, bound for foreign markets through our endangered, devalued properties.
While your own people are out organizing for safer communities and a livable planet, you’re working behind closed doors to silence our voices at the request of industry lobbyists.
Once again: We’ll be visiting your office on Friday, May 31, at 4 PM to express our profound alarm over your proposed legislation. Perhaps you could at least peek your head out while we’re there. As always, we will be courteous, honest, and motivated by deep moral conviction—the same qualities we expect of our elected officials.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the thousands of your own PA constituents who support the values and work of Lancaster Against Pipelines & Lancaster Stands Up