Judge Rejects Proposed Riot Charges Against Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman


There may be hope for the First Amendment rights of new media journalists― a North Dakota judge has dismissed riot charges against Democracy Now! cofounder and investigative reporter Amy Goodman. The attorney also mentioned that Goodman was not acting as a journalist since her reporting focussed only on the protesters. "Failure to do so would send a chilling message for press freedom in the U.S.", he said.

Morton County spokeswoman Donnell Preskey said charges related to the incident are under further review by the state's attorney, and Goodman could still face charges. Goodman had returned to North Dakota to turn herself in to the trespassing charge.

Goodman was one of the first journalists with a national audience to cover the pipeline protest, which would carry oil from North Dakota's fuel-rich Bakken Shale to IL, a journey of more than 1,000 miles that crosses the Missouri River, a source of water to Native American tribes as well as millions of others.

Dickson said this issue needs to be discussed outside the courts.

"It seems that there is a specific intent by the state of North Dakota and the Morton County sheriff's office to identify journalists or others that are bringing light to the police response and the state response to the protests, which we, the ACLU, would consider heavy-handed and highly militarized", she explained.

Goodman initially faced trespassing charges after she reported on the clash between Native American demonstrators and Dakota Access private security at a pipeline construction site where crews were accused of bulldozing over sacred sites. Dakota Access denies any sites were destroyed and state archeologists found no evidence of it, though the tribe says it wasn't consulted. On Saturday, Sept. 3, Democracy Now! filmed security guards working for the pipeline company attacking protesters.

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Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now! "But make no mistake: North Dakota authorities should have dropped these obviously illegal charges as soon as they were issued". "Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions", he told the Grand Forks Herald.

In an article published earlier this week, Democracy Now! stated that in an email with Goodman's attorney, the North Dakota State Attorney dropped the trespassing charge after noting the "legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute". She followed the protestors onto private land. Many held signs, including some that said "this is not a riot".

"Today, the judge sided with freedom and freedom of the press", Goodman said to reporters after the hearing.

The award-winning journalist did Monday's show from a lawn next to a church across the street from the courthouse. One of her guests, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II, said afterward that Goodman's reporting "took a lot of courage". "That's fine, but it doesn't immunize her from the laws of the state", Erickson said Thursday. "The only explanation seems to be that they want to silence First Amendment-protected speech and intimidate other journalists into not covering the protests", writes Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press foundation, in a blog post. And it is unacceptable that the state should interfere with the First Amendment, with freedom of the press-because freedom of the press is about the public's right to know. She and two of her producers received $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

To that end, press advocacy group Free Press delivered almost 25,000 petitions to the office of the North Dakota state's attorney demanding that authorities drop all charges against Goodman and anyone else covering the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. They dispersed when ordered by law officers.

One man was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and disobeying a public safety order under riot conditions, both misdemeanors.