Attempts to Silence Pipeline Protestors

Silencing protest is crucial for establishing an authoritarian regime, as the current Republican party and administration are doing. As is suppressing media coverage of protests, or delegitimizing what reporting is done as “fake” news.

Beginning in 2016 we witnessed the repugnant spectacle of the militarized response to Native men, women, and children praying and peacefully protecting water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Police shooting projectiles at water protectors, spraying them with water in freezing conditions, and arresting peaceful water protectors with felony charges.

Love Letters to God Nahko

Big Oil continues to push hard for legislation to punish peaceful, non-violent pipeline protesters. Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa

Last week, I (Ed Fallon) spoke to bill drafters with Iowa’s non-partisan Legislative Services Agency — the folks who drafted the “critical infrastructure sabotage” bill that passed the Iowa House and Senate and was signed by Governor Reynolds. Drafters agree that, while Iowa’s law makes it a class B felony if one causes a substantial and widespread “interruption or impairment of a fundamental service” of gas, oil, petroleum, or refined petroleum products, it’s hard to imagine any judge or jury finding any of the protesters in the DAPL fight guilty of such a crime, with the exception of those who damaged pipeline equipment.

Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa, 10/24/2019

From the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today:

South Dakota’s governor and attorney general today backed down from their unconstitutional attempts to silence pipeline protestors. In response to a lawsuit we filed alongside the ACLU of South Dakota and the Robins Kaplan law firm, the state has agreed to never enforce the unconstitutional provisions of several state laws that threatened activists who encourage or organize protests, particularly protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, with fines and criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison.

The settlement agreement reached today and now headed to the court for approval is an important victory for the right to protest. It comes soon after a federal court temporarily blocked enforcement of the pieces of the laws that infringed on First Amendment protected speech, and makes the court’s temporary block a permanent one.

The laws include the “Riot Boosting” Act, which gave the state the authority to sue individuals and organizations for “riot boosting,” a novel and confusing term. The court warned against the laws’ broad reach, noting that the laws could have prohibited:

  • Sending a supporting email or a letter to the editor in support of a protest
  • Giving a cup of coffee or thumbs up or $10 to protesters
  • Holding up a sign in protest on a street corner
  • Asking someone to protest

    South Dakota Governor Caves on Attempted Efforts to Silence Pipeline Protesters. The state’s quick retreat should serve as a lesson for other legislatures: if you criminalize protest, we will sue. Vera Eidelman, ACLU, Staff Attorney, October 24, 2019

Peaceful demonstrations are a catalyst for the advancement of human rights. Yet around the world governments are criminalizing dissent and suppressing public protest, often as a means to protect corporate interests. In this context, indigenous peoples increasingly find themselves as the subjects of criminal prosecution and police violence when defending the lands they rely upon for their existence and survival from resource extraction.

The United States has failed in its duty to prevent and protect against the use of excessive force and unlawful arrests and to investigate, punish, and provide reparations for these human rights abuses. By condoning the behavior of state law enforcement and private security in this context, the state is normalizing, encouraging, and emboldening state and non-state actors to act similarly in future situations.

We urge the Special Rapporteur to reiterate her requests to the United States to “develop and provide anti-oppression and anti-racism training to federal and state law enforcement agents, and to mandate the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the excessive use of force and militarized response to the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, including the use of non-lethal weapons.

Report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Chase Iron Eyes

Related blog posts:
We Are Not Terrorists
Indigenous Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline: Criminalization of dissent and suppression of protest


This entry was posted in #NDAPL, civil disobedience, climate change, Indigenous, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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