They issued an arrest warrant for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, after her decision to join protests by Native American tribes and their allies drew attention to the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline.
They issued an arrest warrant for Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! after she reported on physical attacks on protesters. When Goodman announced she would turn herself in, as part of an essential defense of the the rights of journalists to report on news stories, McLean County States Attorney Ladd Erickson came up with a new claim that the journalist had participated in a “riot”—a charge so absurd that a local judge rejected it on Monday.
They arrested Madison, Wisconsin, City Council member Rebecca Kemble, an elected official who had observed a prayer ceremony organized by opponents of the pipeline. Her camera was seized as she filmed a police crackdown on Native American activists.
By every evidence, North Dakota authorities are waging war against the public’s right to know.
The remarkable events that have transpired in North Dakota in recent weeks are jarring, not just for the details of prosecutorial lawlessness but because they offer an indication of what can happen when the state aligns with corporations in order to shut down democratic discourse. Much of the attention to recent developments in the state has focused on the threat to journalism, and that is appropriate. But the moves made by North Dakota authorities to criminalize dissent and discussion of that dissent involve more than just an assault on the clearly established right of reporters to cover conflict by going to the heart of the matter.
The abuses by North Dakota prosecutors of their legal authority threaten the ability of people across the United States to learn about the vital environmental and human-rights issues raised by a genuinely controversial pipeline project. Americans have a right to know about the protests by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies against construction of the pipeline.