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USA: S. Dakota will not enforce laws allowing state to sue people for encouraging protests over construction of oil pipelines

Author: Rachel Frazin, The Hill, Published on: 24 October 2019

"South Dakota drops pipeline protest laws after lawsuit", 24 Oct 2019

South Dakota has agreed to stop enforcing laws seen as curtailing protests over the construction of oil pipelines after a lawsuit claimed it violated First Amendment rights, according to a settlement announced Thursday.

Legislation signed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) earlier this year allowed the state to sue people or groups for “riot boosting,” or encouraging protests where violence eventually occurs, even if the defendant does not participate in rioting. It was passed in anticipation of the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

That led to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota on behalf of several groups, arguing that it infringed on free speech.

The governor had included the riot boosting measure as part of a broader set of bills regarding the construction of oil pipelines, calling it “a legislative solution to ensure the safety and efficiency of pipeline construction in South Dakota.”

ACLU Racial Justice Program attorney Stephen Pevar said that the law on riot boosting was "plainly unconstitutional" in a...statement. 

"This settlement helps ensure that no one has to fear the government coming after them for exercising their First Amendment right to protest," Pevar said.

"...It’s important to note that it is still illegal to riot in South Dakota. No one has the right to incite violence," Noem said. 

"My team and I are continuing to work to protect people, property, and the environment, all while making sure the crimes on our books are in line with current constitutional law,” she added.

Read the full post here