S.D. Joint Appropriations Committee advances bill to chill free speech, right to protest

March 6, 2019 1:45 pm

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ACLU of South Dakota
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Today, South Dakota’s Joint Committee on Appropriations voted to advance Senate Bill 189, legislation that threatens freedom of speech and the right to protest.

Senate Bill 189 is one of two last-minute bills from Gov. Kristi Noem introduced this week that are intended to take aim at protests that could occur around the Keystone XL pipeline.

Though proponents of the bill allege that they are concerned only about riots, the context is clear: this legislation is a direct reaction to some of the most effective protests in modern American history, including the work done by water protectors challenging the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

“Senate Bill 189 is, simply put, precisely about speech and protest,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota policy director. “This bill creates an entirely new category of civil liability under South Dakota law that is motivated by a fear of speech and protest. The bill’s language is extremely broad and reaches people exercising their right to free speech and assembly and will chill free speech. It attempts to blur the line between constitutionally-protected speech and unlawful actions and would catch many innocent protestors in its wide net.”

PLEASE NOTE: Libby Skarin’s testimony to the Joint Appropriations Committee is available at https://www.aclusd.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/aclu_of_south_dakota_letter_to_joint_appropriations_committee.pdf

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