Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 19, 2019

Federal Judge Blocks 'Riot Boosting' Laws in South Dakota

Federal judge halts unconstitutional new laws targeting pipeline protests against Keystone XL

When a federal judge blocked the unconstitutional 'riot boosting' laws in South Dakota, he said that "Martin Luther King Jr. would have been liable for 'riot boosting' under South Dakota's law for writing his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail," the ACLU of South Dakota said. Martin Luther King called for non-violent direct action in this letter. "The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation," Martin Luther King wrote.
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of the "riot boosting" laws in South Dakota laws, unconstitutional laws designed to stop protests against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney M. Bordeaux praised the decision handed down on Wednesday, pointing out that freedom of speech is far more important than the interests of oil companies.
"Like many tribal members, I was grateful for the news that Judge Lawrence Piersol of the U.S. Federal District Court has granted an injunction against the State of South Dakota that prohibits the state from enforcing its unconstitutional 'riot-boosting' law," Bordeaux said in a statement.
"We believe that this sends a message to Governor Kristi Noem that it is not acceptable to skip the legislative process and ‘fast-track’ legislation in a non-transparent manner so that the voice of the people are not heard. We are hopeful that the state is reminded that it is not acceptable to put the needs and wishes of foreign oil ahead of the people’s constitutional rights to free speech."
In issuing a preliminary injunction halting several provisions of the legislation, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol said the ALCU is likely to win most of its challenges to the bill “with the possible exception for direction of another person participating in a riot to use force or violence," Associated Press reports.
Piersol added that that protesters must be allowed to plan and seek public support and money “before and in anticipation” of the next construction season. Conversely, supporters of the pipeline should also have the opportunity to respond rather than waiting for confrontation during actual construction, the judge said.
“We’re glad the court recognized that these vague and overbroad laws threaten the First Amendment rights of South Dakotans on every side of the issue,” said Stephen Pevar, an ACLU attorney.
The legislation hastily passed in March by the Republican-dominated Legislature allows officials to pursue criminal or civil penalties against demonstrators who engage in “riot boosting,” defined in part as encouraging violence during a riot. It’s meant to head off Keystone XL protests like those mounted against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota that resulted in 761 arrests over a six-month span beginning in late 2016, AP reports.

The ACLU said the new law targets pipeline protesters.
The new law gives the state the authority to sue individuals and organizations for “riot boosting,” but it does not clearly describe what speech or conduct it considers to be “riot boosting, the ACLU said in April.
"The law is written so broadly that even a tweet encouraging activists to 'Join a protest to stop the pipeline and give it all you’ve got!' could be interpreted as 'riot-boosting' should a fight break out at the protest. The law joins two existing state criminal laws that also target such speech, meaning that advocacy could now result in up to 25 years of prison time, fines, or civil penalties — or a combination of all three," the ACLU said.

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