Overzealous state’s attorney Ladd R. Erickson was brought up short by District Judge John Grinsteiner on Monday. Erickson On September 8, Erickson sought to curry favor with important corporate interests by charging Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman with trespassing after a video she took of peaceful protesters who oppose the Dakota Access pipeline being assaulted by private security forces went viral. The private storm troopers used pepper spray on the protesters. They also encouraged their trained dogs to bite them. Goodman’s video showed several dogs with blood on their muzzles.
Goodman’s video was viewed by more than 14 million people worldwide, which greatly displeased the powerful interests pushing for the pipeline. It proved to be too much for those fossil fuel thugs to bear . They gave Erickson his marching orders, which no doubt focused heavily on what might happen to him in the next election if he did not agree to be their henchmen. Erickson dutifully filed a criminal trespass charge against Goodman.
She traveled voluntarily to North Dakota on Monday to answer the trespassing charge but before she got there, persecutor in chief Erickson realized his trespassing charge had no legal merit, so he withdrew it. But, to make sure his corporate benefactors knew he was with them in spirit, he decided to ask a judge to charge Goodman with “rioting” instead. Judge Grinsteiner sent him away empty handed.
“These shifting charges were a transparent attempt by the prosecutor to intimidate Amy Goodman and to silence coverage of the resistance to the pipeline,” said Reed Brody, an attorney for Goodman. “Fortunately, these bully tactics didn’t work and freedom of the press has prevailed.”
“This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public’s right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline,” said Goodman. “We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet.”
Erickson decided that he and he alone would decide whether a person is a journalist. Goodman’s 30 years on the job and numerous awards for journalistic excellence did not impress Unterführer Erickson. He had his reputation as a tough on crime kind of guy to protect and a re-election campaign to think about. The dictates of the Constitution would not hold him back from doing everything in his power to please his masters.
The fact that Goodman is well known for her journalistic deeds no doubt helped her cause. The same cannot be said for Deia Schlosberg, who has been charged elsewhere in the great state of No. Dak with three felony counts carrying a total penalty of 45 years in jail for filming other protesters. The people of N. Dakota must be very proud of such diligent public servants.
In both cases, the unquenchable greed of the fossil fuel companies behind the pipeline is on display. There is no water they would not pollute, no land they would not render uninhabitable in their relentless quest to wrest hydrocarbons from the earth and burn them. Profits are the temple they pray to. The people and the earth be damned.
Sadly, too often in America, law enforcement sees its role as an instrument of oppression for corporate interests. Seldom are the rights of private citizens respected. Recently a group of 5 people who are part of the ongoing Dakota Access pipeline resistance were threatened with arrest by a mob of 40 police officers drawn from 8 police departments in three different states. The officers were dressed in riot gear and carrying assault rifles. The protesters were kneeling in prayer on the side of a road near Cannon Ball, No. Dak. No wonder it took 40 officers to quell this obvious threat to public safety. What could be more frightening than 5 people praying by the side of the road?
Americans should be outraged at the threats and intimidation visited on the pipeline opponents. Where in the Constitution does it say that our rights to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to freely exercise our religion aren’t worth the paper they were written on if they inconvenience some faceless corporation? Since when are profits more important than the rights of people?
For more information about the Dakota Access pipeline protest, visit the protesters’ Facebook page. Call your elected officials. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. One person can accomplish little, but lots of voices raised as one can move mountains — or stop pipelines.
Source: Democracy Now!