October 14, 2016
Amy Goodman returns to North Dakota to fight for right to do her job
by Kait Howard
Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman will be returning to Morton County, North Dakota next week to fight a criminal trespassing charge stemming from her report on protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on alleged burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
For those who haven’t been following the story, two days after Democracy Now! published Goodman’s video report on the September 3 protest against the $3.8 billion oil pipeline, the state issued a warrant for her arrest. The video, which showed guard dogs being unleashed against protesters by what appeared to be security personnel, swiftly went viral, driving further attention to the plight of the Standing Rock Sioux. The tribe, whose lawyers have since filed documents purportedly showing that the land does indeed hold the remains of their ancestors, is particularly worried about the environmental impact of the pipeline, which is set to run just north of their reservation.
According to a media advisory published by Democracy Now!, Goodman will be turning herself in to authorities on October 17 to contest the charge, which she maintains is “a clear violation of the First Amendment.” Citing the state’s criminal complaint, which “ironically” describes Goodman interviewing participants and reporting on the protest—activities of a journalist, not a protester—Democracy Now! maintains that Goodman was “doing the constitutionally protected work of a reporter.”
According to a report by Caroline Grueskin in the Bismarck Tribune, the McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson, who is prosecuting for Morton County, has contested Goodman’s role at the protests: “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions,” he told Grueskin. “Is everybody that’s putting out a YouTube from down there a journalist down there, too?”
Aside from the fact that Grueskin must be willfully ignoring the fact that Goodman is a journalist, it’s pretty much impossible not to read the trespassing charge against Goodman as the state’s attempt to send a message to other journalists. As Tom Dickson, the Bismark-based attorney who’s representing Goodman, told Grueskin,“You don’t arrest reporters… I think the government is overplaying its hand.”
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and four other U.S. senators have called on President Obama to “order a comprehensive environmental review of the pipeline project,” Valerie Volcovici at Reuters reported yesterday.
Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.