Second Attempt to Legislate Peaceful Protest in South Dakota Unnecessary
Gov. Kristi Noem’s second attempt at a “riot boosting” law is an unnecessary effort to legislate peaceful protest in South Dakota.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1117, legislation that repeals and revises certain provisions regarding riot, establishes the crime of incitement to riot and revises provisions regarding civil liability for riot and riot boosting. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
It’s irrefutable that this bill, like the 2019 “Riot Boosting Act” it replaces, was sparked by a desire to suppress protests around the Keystone XL pipeline. But the right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment. The South Dakota Legislature does not need to pass laws that would intimidate peaceful protesters and chip away at their constitutional rights.
“While proponents of this bill say they’re concerned only about riots, the context is clear: this legislation is a direct reaction to some of the most effective protests in modern American history, including the work done by water protectors challenging the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock,” said Candi Brings Plenty, indigenous justice organizer for the ACLU of South Dakota. “This bill and the narrative surrounding it only creates a state of fear that pits activists and organizers who are exercising their First Amendment rights against government officials and law enforcement.”
Additionally, House Bill 1117 raises a fundamental question: How will the State of South Dakota ensure that the rights of the people planning to peacefully protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are protected?
That question is of particular importance to the South Dakota tribes and indigenous peoples and organizations that plan to protest the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“Indigenous voices have long protected Mother Earth’s biodiversity and we will not be intimidated into silence,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We refuse to live in fear for demanding climate justice and protecting our sovereignty as Native nations and its peoples. We will remain vigilant against further government attempts to outlaw our right to peacefully assemble.”
The ACLU of South Dakota, along with the people and organizations most directly impacted by this unnecessary legislation, would like to see a comprehensive plan that ensures civil rights will be protected and a plan that prevents the escalation of any tension between peaceful protestors and law enforcement.
“The state of South Dakota doesn’t want anything to disrupt the pipeline’s construction, but our sacred lands are too important,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective. “We will continue to deploy organizers in the field and mobilize our people for climate justice and against the KXL pipeline. We will continue to fight for air, land, water and our rights. Protecting Mother Earth should not feel like an ‘us’ verses ‘them’ situation.”
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