Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 22, 2024

Standing Rock: Pipeline Still Going After Unicorn Riot and Water Protectors in Court

Photo credit Unicorn Riot

Standing Rock: Pipeline Still Going After Unicorn Riot and Water Protectors in Court

By Brenda Norrell, Censored News, June 22, 2024

Energy Transfer is still going after the files of Unicorn Riot media, to find out the details of Water Protectors actions at Standing Rock. In the case filed against Greenpeace and others, Energy Transfer, the owner of Dakota Access Pipeline, is now asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to review a recent court decision.

Energy Transfer recently served subpoenas on Water Protectors in its case against Greenpeace, Unicorn Riot and others. The case is scheduled to go to trial in North Dakota court the last week of July.

Greenpeace said the SLAPP lawsuit seeks to rewrite history, instead of giving credit to Native people for the defense of the water at Standing Rock.

Greenpeace said, "Like all SLAPPs, Energy Transer’s current, meritless US $300 million lawsuit against Greenpeace is an attack on two key elements of public advocacy: free speech and peaceful protest."

"We are being sued by Energy Transfer – a US-based fossil fuel company that is responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline – for nearly US $300 million related to the Indigenous-led 2016 protests at Standing Rock. Not only does this SLAPP attempt to rewrite the history of this movement led by the Standing Rock Sioux, but a loss at trial could prove destructive to Greenpeace in the US and have widespread impacts for the climate justice movement all around the world," Greenpeace said.

Unicorn Riot recently won a court victory and safeguarded their Standing Rock files in Minnesota Appeals Court. Now, Energy Transfer is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the decision.

Black Snake Killaz, film by Unicorn Riot

Unicorn Riot won its case covering the the resistance to the pipeline, but the pipeline owner hasn't given up digging into the media's notes and communications. Unicorn Riot's information is protected as journalism under the Minnesota Free Flow of Information Act, MFFIA, the Minnesota Appeals Court ruled.

In this new filing, Energy Transfer is still seeking the journalists files, and claims Unicorn Riot is likely to have had prior knowledge of actions.

Energy Transfer's case filed in Minnesota Supreme Court in June states in part:

"Petitioners sued Greenpeace in North Dakota for extensive damages caused by Greenpeace’s commission and facilitation of trespass, violence, and other unlawful conduct intended to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline."

"In 2016, Respondent Unicorn Riot, a far-left organization of 'citizen journalists,' inserted its members into these protests and then posted supportive interviews, photographs, and video footage online. Unicorn Riot members accompanied protestors as they trespassed onto pipeline construction sites, vandalized equipment, threatened workers and law enforcement officials, and unlawfully obstructed pipeline completion.

"Unicorn Riot members conducted interviews with protestors and recorded footage of the protestors’ unlawful activities while trespassing on pipeline construction sites. Unicorn Riot also likely received communications from protestors concerning plans for the protests— including plans for unlawful activity—in order to coordinate its presence and facilitate its coverage of those activities.

"Because Unicorn Riot possessed extensive information that is highly relevant to Petitioners’ North Dakota claims against Greenpeace, Petitioners served Unicorn Riot and its principal (collectively, “Unicorn Riot”) in Minnesota with subpoenas duces tecum aimed at discovering documents and information relevant to Petitioners’ claims. Despite its own participation in the tortious conduct at issue in the underlying suit, Unicorn Riot refused to produce a single document, claiming that all of its unpublished information was privileged under MFFIA."

See full court document

Unicorn Riot: Legal Documents

Download the May 6 Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling here (PDF). Read the Amicus Briefs filed on Unicorn Riot’s behalf below:

  • Forum for Constitutional Rights Amicus Brief (Nov. 6, 2023)
  • Reporters Committee for a Free Press with Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA), Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sahan Journal, American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN), E.W. Scripps Company Amicus Brief (Nov. 3, 2023)
  • Tony Webster Amicus Brief (Nov 3, 2023)

Unicorn Riot: Read other court documents below:

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