South Dakota House Lawmakers Advance Bill That Would Chip Away at Peaceful Protestors’ First Amendment Rights

February 18, 2020 5:30 pm

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No one should have to fear the government coming after them for exercising their First Amendment rights. But today, House legislators voted to advance a bill that would do just that.

House Bill 1117 – legislation that repeals and revises certain provisions regarding riot, establishes the crime of incitement to riot and revises provisions regarding civil liability for riot and riot boosting – would intimidate peaceful protesters and chip away at their constitutional rights.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1117. Gov. Kristi Noem’s second attempt at a “riot boosting” law is an unnecessary effort to legislate peaceful protest in South Dakota and creates a state of fear that pits activists and organizers exercising their First Amendment rights against government officials and law enforcement.

Instead of passing this House Bill 1117, lawmakers should focus on ensuring the civil rights of people planning to peacefully protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are protected.

“We believe there is a different way to address concerns of public safety and peaceful protest and to create an environment in which the government recognizes its obligation to ensure that the rights of water protectors and advocates are protected, not erased,” said Candi Brings Plenty, indigenous justice organizer for the ACLU of South Dakota. “The governor and our elected officials should consult with the people who will bear the heaviest burden of any laws regarding protest. The voices of the people must be heard in a meaningful way, and taking that opportunity away from South Dakotans is a subversion of our entire democratic process.”

In addition to the ACLU of South Dakota, NDN Collective, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Indigenous Environmental Network, Dakota Rural Action and the Sierra Club also oppose House Bill 1117.

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