In early September, Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman was charged with the misdemeanor crime of trespassing at the site of the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota. Last Friday, Morton County prosecutors escalated the charges against Goodman to include participation in a riot.
Tomorrow, Amy Goodman will turn herself in to the authorities at the Morton County-Mandan Combined Law Enforcement and Corrections Center in Mandan, North Dakota. After that happens, District Judge John Grinsteiner will determine if there is probable cause to go ahead and prosecute Goodman on riot charges. If convicted, Goodman could serve serious jail time.
DA deems Goodman a protestor, not a journalist
The Grand Forks Herald asked Morton County District Attorney, Ladd Erickson, to elucidate his reason for arresting Goodman, who was clearly doing her job as an investigative journalist and news reporter. Erickson explained that he considers Goodman a protestor, not a journalist. “She’s a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”
In a subsequent interview in the Bismark Tribune, he said, “I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of her state.”
In an email to Goodman’s attorney, Tom Dickson, Erickson explained that there were “legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute,” and that’s why he ramped up the legal charges against the award-winning journalist.
Of the change in charges, Jezebel reports Goodman as saying, “I came back to North Dakota to fight a trespass charge. They saw that they could never make that charge stick, so now they want to charge me with rioting. I wasn’t trespassing, I wasn’t engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters.”
Goodman reports what other news agencies will not
Although the Native American-led protest against the proposed oil pipeline project has been active since April, Amy Goodman was the first nationally-known news reporter to cover the events at the Standing Rock site. On September 3, Goodman and her film crew documented a skirmish wherein private security guards wielded pepper spray and sicced attack dogs on a group of pipeline protesters that included children. The full report, which went viral shortly after airing on September 6, and includes graphic images of dogs with bloody snouts, can be viewed here.
On September 6, after airing her video report on Democracy Now!, Goodman spoke with American Indian activist, Winona Duke, and canine expert, Jonni Joyce. Duke compared the dog attacks at Standing Rock to the violent suppression of civil rights activists in 1965 Birmingham.
“What I feel like telling the governor is that, you know, you are not George Wallace, and this is not Alabama. You know? This is 2016, and you don’t get to treat Indians like you have for those last hundred years. We’re done. You know? It’ll be interesting times.”
Jonni Joyce, who boasts more than 25 years experience with law enforcement dog handling, told Goodman that the dogs used by private security forces at the Dakota Access pipeline protest did not appear to have been professionally trained.
“What the dogs were not trained to do was to be professional security dogs or professional law enforcement dogs. What I witnessed on the video was absolutely horrific and a chaotic scene. It appeared that the handlers were not trained properly in order to manage a dog that has been trained in some type of controlled aggression. And basically, what it looked like was a bunch of alligators at the end of leashes being put on the Native Americans there that are protesting. It absolutely was an egregious use of canines.”
Why are journalists being arrested?
According to the Grand Forks Herald, Amy Goodman is among nearly 40 persons have been arrested in connection with the Dakota Access pipeline protest. Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas at the Committee to Protect Journalists, issued the following statement in response to Goodman’s impending arrest.
“This arrest warrant is a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest. Authorities in North Dakota should stop embarrassing themselves, drop the charges against Amy Goodman, and ensure that all reporters are free to do their jobs.”
[Featured Image by Jemal Countess/Getty Images]