October 20, 2016; Guardian
The Dakota Access pipeline protests began with a Standing Rock Sioux youth-led petition called Rezpect Our Water. Their earnest protest became an international cause célèbre and a celebrity cause. There is, of course, a long history of such causes where celebrities take a stand en masse—many times, to very good stead.
The Justice League movie’s cast members and Leonardo DiCaprio have spoken out in opposition to the pipeline. Bernie Sanders and four Senate Democrats issued a letter to President Barack Obama making demands. Authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! after she filmed guards for the Dakota Access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters. A North Dakota judge subsequently rejected prosecutors’ “riot” charges against Goodman, a decision that at least temporarily upheld freedom of the press.
On October 10, actress Shailene Woodley, star of the Divergent series and most recently Snowden, was arrested along with 26 other people for criminal trespassing. (Her video of the arrest has nearly 5 million views at this writing.) Recently released on bail, Woodley wrote this essay about her experience for Time. She will stand trial in January. If convicted, she could face up to 60 days in jail and a $3,000 fine. In an interview with the website Democracy Now! on Sunday, she said she was strip-searched at the Morton County jail.
Events took a more chilling turn when documentary filmmakers Deia Schlosberg and Lindsey Grayzel were separately charged with felony conspiracy and taken into custody for reporting on U.S. oil pipeline protests in North Dakota and Washington State respectively.
Here is an October 24th video interview by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! with Schlosberg. Schlosberg is facing three felony conspiracy charges that could result in a 45-year prison sentence. Edward Snowden tweeted his support of Schlosberg, writing, “This reporter is being prosecuted for covering the North Dakota oil protests. For reference, I face a mere 30 years.”
Neil Young, actor Mark Ruffalo, and more than 30 other artists, filmmakers, writers and journalists joined Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox, who produced “How to Let Go of the World” with Schlosberg, in signing an open letter to President Barack Obama and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple that the charges against Schlosberg were “unfair, unjust and illegal.”
The Guardian reports that free speech advocates view these two cases as being especially troubling because the prosecutors are pursuing aggressive felony cases while admitting that the defendants were actin