N.D. Judge Dismisses Riot Charge Against 'Democracy Now' Host
Amy Goodman — the host of the left-leaning Democracy Now news program — will not face criminal charges for her coverage of an oil pipeline protest in North Dakota last month. At least not for now; prosecutors say they may still bring charges later.
On Sept. 3, Goodman and her crew captured images of security teams with dogs trying to keep protesters from entering a pipeline construction site. She wanted to know whether security members were "telling the dogs to bite the protesters?"
Demonstrators — many from the local Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — crossed a fence when they saw bulldozers plowing over an area they say is a sacred site. It's on private property and authorities say the protesters were trespassing.
Goodman followed them to get the story. The prosecutor planned to charge her with criminal trespassing. But last week Special Assistant State's Attorney Ladd Erickson dropped that charge and pursued a riot charge instead. The judge determined there was not enough probable cause to pursue the case.
Outside the courthouse Goodman reacted to the decision:
"The state cannot stop this journalism. The state must not stop this journalism. Violating the First Amendment is not good for North Dakota. It's not good for this country."
The Morton County State's Attorney's Office is still reviewing the case to determine whether it will file different charges against Goodman. Meantime, Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier addressed claims that he was targeting Goodman for her coverage, which favors tribal concerns over those of the pipeline company.
"Any journalist who comes out here or news media outlet that wants to see what going on can definitely come out [to] do it," Kirchmeier said. "But while they are they there, they cannot break the laws, just like anybody else. So they can't trespass on private property unless they have permission and that type of thing. So that's what this is about."
The company building the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline has faced protests in the state of Iowa too. Last weekend, someone set several pieces of heavy machinery on fire, causing $2 million damage. Local, state and federal investigators have not arrested anyone yet in that case.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.