North Dakota Arrest Warrant for Amy Goodman Violates First Amendment

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standing-rock-sioux

Standing Rock Sioux sacred site / U.S. Department of Agriculture

September 12, 2016, Salon

Some 2,000 representatives from 280 tribes of Native Americans joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s weeks-old nonviolent resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline being dug through land that tribal members say is a sacred cultural and burial ground. Construction was halted at one location but continues elsewhere. The $3.8bn pipeline is slated to carry crude oil from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a tank farm near Chicago in Pakota, Illinois. The 1,172-mile project is about 60 percent complete and $1.6bn has already been spent.

Yesterday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple activated the National Guard to support riot gear–clad police in a militarized effort to confront and arrest the protestors. The authorities are also preparing for the protestors’ response to the ruling expected this Friday on the tribe’s request for an emergency injunction to halt construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River, immediately upstream from the Standing Rock reservation. AntiMedia.org is using Livestream to broadcast the military and police formations.

Last Thursday, North Dakota’s Morton County sheriff’s office issued an arrest warrant for Amy Goodman, the broadcast journalist and host of Democracy Now!, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter, author, and winner of countless awards. Goodman was accused of criminal trespass (entering private property to conduct interviews), a misdemeanor offense.

On Saturday, September 3rd, Democracy Now! filmed Dakota Access pipeline security guards deploying dogs and pepper spray to control and attack protesters. Here is Goodman’s video report on September 6th. The criminal complaint made on September 8th, and the resulting case, the State of North Dakota v. Amy Goodman, stems from a viewing by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation of this Democracy Now! video report of the incident widely shared on Facebook. According to Democracy Now!, Special Agent Lindsey Wohl’s affidavit states, “Amy Goodman can be seen on the video identifying herself and interviewing protestors [sic] about their involvement in the protest.” Goodman has apparently not yet been arrested.

While Assistant State’s Attorney for Morton County Gabrielle J. Goter approved the complaint, “none of the private security personnel shown in the video both assaulting protesters and commanding their dogs to attack them have been charged or arrested.”

Attorneys in North Dakota and at the Center for Constitutional Rights are defending Goodman in what is to them a blatant violation of the First Amendment and “an attempt to repress this important political movement by silencing media coverage.”

Writing for Salon, Ben Norton reports that Morton County also issued arrest warrants for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka.

“I hope the North Dakota authorities press charges against the real vandalism taking place at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation: the bulldozing of sacred burial sites and the unleashing of vicious attack dogs,” Stein said.

September 13th was named #NoDAPL Day of Action, organized by Cody Hall of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who was just released from jail after being held for three days without bail or bond. Bernie Sanders joined hundreds of protesters outside the White House yesterday. Protests are being organized in major U.S. cities such as in St. Paul yesterday, as well as in Britain, Portugal, Japan, and other countries. Wisconsin’s point guard Bronson Koenig is joining the protest. “I want to take time out of my schedule to pray with them and protest with them and show them that I’m right alongside them.”

Meanwhile, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners CEO, Kelcy Warren, issued an optimistic letter yesterday to his employees and to the media. He concludes his spirited defense of the pipeline this way:

I am confident that as long as the government ultimately decides the fate of the project based on science and engineering, the Dakota Access Pipeline will become operational bringing a safer means of transportation to a much needed supply of oil to communities across the country.

Unfortunately for Warren, it would appear that this peaceful protest movement is just beginning. Yesterday, after visiting the protestors’ campsite in North Dakota, California Rep. Raul Ruiz, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee’s Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, is being joined by committee member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) in calling for a hearing.

“The tribes have a right to self determination, and a say in policy that can affect their land, their life and their sacred sites,” Ruiz said. “Tribes throughout the country are united under this issue because it goes to the historical trauma that they have faced repeatedly with the lack of federal agencies going through due process with tribes and respecting their sovereignty.”—James Schaffer