June 2019, Vol. 246, No. 6

Global News

South Dakota Governor Defends Pipeline Protest Legislation

South Dakota’s governor and attorney general are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging a new law that aims to prevent disruptive demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline if it’s built.

The law allows officials to pursue criminal or civil penalties from demonstrators who engage in “riot boosting,” which is defined in part as encouraging violence during a riot. The American Civil Liberties Union and American Indian tribes say the law will stifle free speech, but the state disputes that argument.

“Defendants deny that any objectively reasonable fear of prosecution for protected speech would arise under (the law),” Deputy Attorney General Richard Williams said in a Tuesday filing.

He also said the state is immune from such lawsuits.

The law was pushed through the Legislature by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and the GOP leaders in a matter of days earlier this year. The new law came in the wake of massive and prolonged protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in 2016 and 2017. There were 761 arrests in six months, and the policing effort cost the state $38 million. P&GJ

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