Friday, October 25, 2019

ACLU Forces South Dakota Governor to Drop “Riot Boosting” Act: Victory for Native People who Protest Pipelines

By Native News Online Staff - October 25, 2019 at 12:20AM

Veterans at Cannonball, North Dakota on Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Sunday, December 2, 2016. Native News Online photograph by Levi Rickert

State governments are seeking to block large protests like the Standing Rock resistance.

Published October 25, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on Thursday backed down from their unconstitutional attempts to silence protesters. Under a settlement agreement, which was submitted for court approval today, the state agreed to never enforce current state laws that prohibit protected speech and are aimed at suppressing protests against the Keystone XL pipeline. The settlement will make permanent an earlier federal court ruling that temporarily blocked enforcement of unconstitutional provisions of the anti-protest laws.

The agreement comes in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of South Dakota and the Robins Kaplan law firm on behalf of four organizations: the Sierra Club, NDN Collective, Dakota Rural Action, and the Indigenous Environmental Network; and two individuals: Nick Tilsen with NDN Collective and Dallas Goldtooth with Indigenous Environmental Network. All are currently protesting or planning to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and/or encouraging others to do so.

The lawsuit challenged unconstitutional provisions of several South Dakota laws, including the “Riot Boosting” Act, that threatened activists who encourage or organize protests, particularly protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, with fines, civil liabilities, and/or criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison.

In September, U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol found the anti-protest provisions of the laws unconstitutional and temporarily blocked state officials from enforcing them. Under the terms of the settlement, Noem and Ravnsborg will send a letter to the state’s attorneys in each county, telling them to direct law enforcement in their jurisdictions not to enforce the unconstitutional provisions of the laws. They will also compensate plaintiffs for attorneys’ fees.

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is likely imminent. Pre-construction activities are already underway and a hearing on the new Environmental Impact Statement regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, which will serve as the basis for approval of any future permits, is coming up next Monday.

South Dakota’s “Riot Boosting” Act joins a recently growing number of government efforts to stifle protests, particularly those led by Indigenous and environmental activists, often in opposition to pipelines.

American Indian groups see Thursday’s action as a victory.

“South Dakota knew these laws couldn’t stand up to our legal challenge so rather than face embarrassment they decided to capitulate. We will celebrate this win, but remain vigilant against further government attempts to outlaw our right to peacefully assemble. We will fight on for the protection of the Oceti Sakowin people and the sacredness of Mother Earth with no hesitations,” said Dallas Goldtooth, organizer, Indigenous Environmental Network.

“The ‘riot boosting’ act was an insult to the Constitution and an attempt to muzzle the voices of the people and our movement to defend Mother Earth. This settlement accomplishes everything that we set out do with the lawsuit and makes the temporary injunction a permanent one. Onward, we will continue to fight for air, land, water and our rights,” commented Nick Tilsen, president and CEO, NDN Collective.

The post ACLU Forces South Dakota Governor to Drop “Riot Boosting” Act: Victory for Native People who Protest Pipelines appeared first on Native News Online.

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