#NoDAPL: Native Americans and our Constitution are under assault
"Journalism and activism are not crimes. Ensure that journalists can exercise their constitutional rights to do their jobs without fear of government intimidation or prosecution. Uphold the rights of Native Americans and their allies to peacefully resist the Dakota Access pipeline without threat of violence."
Now, overzealous law enforcement officials in North Dakota have jailed journalists and celebrities that were performing their constitutionally-protected right to free speech and the press by documenting police attacks on protesters.
These actions are a serious affront to the constitution and to sovereign tribal rights and are an egregious abuse of power by the police and the government in order to protect the fossil fuel industry. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice must protect protesters’ right to assemble and the right of journalists to do their jobs.
Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice: Stop police abuse and protect the constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of over 200 other tribes from across the Americas are leading the resistance to protect sovereign land and drinking water from destruction by the fossil fuel industry. It is the largest gathering of indigenous people in over a century.1 However, in an attempt to quell these historic nonviolent protests, Gov. Dalrymple ordered a state of emergency that has militarized the police force, set up a highway roadblock and mobilized the National Guard to intimidate protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota has called a “State of Emergency for Civil Rights.”2
In September, Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, and her crew filmed as armed security forces deployed pepper spray on nonviolent protesters and unleashed dogs that bit tribe members. Her reporting went viral, with over 14 million people on Facebook and millions more through the mainstream media viewing her reporting.
In response, a North Dakota state prosecutor issued charges and a warrant for Goodman’s arrest for participating in a “riot,” which is in direct violation of her constitutionally protected right to work as a reporter. The charges – which were dismissed by a judge on Monday in the wake of widespread condemnation – have been called “a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest” by the Committee to Protect Journalists.3
Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice: Stop police abuse and protect the Constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.
In addition to Goodman’s arrest, authorities in North Dakota are actively targeting journalists and others with a wide audience to prevent them from reporting on the protests. Acclaimed actress Shailene Woodley, who filmed the Dakota Access protests for 40,000 viewers on Facebook Live, was singled out by police for her celebrity and arrested on the scene.4 Police also arrested climate documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, held her for 48 hours without access to her lawyer and charged her with three counts of conspiracy that could land her in prison for 45 years – all for simply filming the protests.5
Based on the reports, it appears that government officials are attempting to intimidate indigenous people resisting the pipeline and silence the press from spreading the word. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is quoted as saying that, in response to the protests, the federal government is looking into “what potential steps could be taken to ensure the safety and security of our energy infrastructure.”6
The injustices perpetrated by the government and the fossil fuel industry against journalists, Native peoples, and their allies are an unacceptable assault on the First Amendment. We must stand with them now and ensure their constitutional rights to assemble and report are fully protected.
Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the DoJ: Stop police abuse and protect the Constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.
- “Life in the Native American oil protest camps,” BBC, Sept. 2, 2016.
- Jennifer Cook, “North Dakota’s Governor Declared a State of Emergency to Deal With Peaceful Oil Pipeline Protesters. We Call It a State of Emergency for Civil Rights.,” American Civil Liberties Union, Sept. 13, 2016.
- “MEDIA ADVISORY: Journalist Amy Goodman to Turn Herself in to North Dakota Authorities,” Democracy Now!, Oct. 13. 2016.
- “Actress Shailene Woodley arrested during pipeline protest,” BBC, Oct. 11. 2016.
- Josh Fox, “ The Arrest of Journalists and Filmmakers Covering the Dakota Pipeline Is a Threat to Democracy—and the Planet,” The Nation, Oct. 14, 2016.
- Catherine Ngai and Nia Williams, “Canada-U.S. oil pipelines resume operations after activists halt flow,” Reuters, Oct. 12, 2016.