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"Riot-Boosting" Redux Set for Hearing at SD Capitol

If passed, the newest version of South Dakota's "riot-boosting" law could scare off Keystone XL pipeline protesters due to legal ramifications. (Free-Photos/9091 images/Pixabay)
If passed, the newest version of South Dakota's "riot-boosting" law could scare off Keystone XL pipeline protesters due to legal ramifications. (Free-Photos/9091 images/Pixabay)
February 12, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. -- Another attempt to limit protests over construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will be heard at the State Capitol today.

Gov. Kristi Noem has introduced an amended version of what's become known as the 2019 "riot-boosting" law -- struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional. State officials want to prevent a repeat of the protests at North Dakota's Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016 over proposed pipelines under the Missouri River.

Candi Brings Plenty, an indigenous justice organizer for the ACLU of South Dakota, said the bill would not only suppress the rights of "water protectors" but also others who demonstrate peacefully.

"We have the right to join with fellow citizens, regardless of what community they come from or what the protest itself is standing for," she said, "and it is critical to any functioning democracy at its core."

The pipeline path runs north to south through South Dakota. In 2016, a year-long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock failed to stop construction. Keystone XL construction is expected to resume this spring.

If the legislation passes, Brings Plenty said it will raise the question of how South Dakota plans to protect the civil rights of peaceful protesters and avoid conflicts with law enforcement. She said she believes the state should find a compromise, rather than instilling fear.

"We believe that there are different ways to address this concern of public safety and peaceful protests," she said, "and the governor and our elected officials should consult with the people who will bear the heaviest burden."

The latest bill has been amended to address court objections to the first bill. The ACLU initiated the lawsuit against last year's legislation, which left South Dakota taxpayers on the hook for nearly $150,000 in attorney fees.

The text of House Bill 1117 is online at sdlegislature.gov.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD