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Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines protest President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Lafayette Park next to the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Applause as Federal Court Blocks 'Unconstitutional' South Dakota Law That Would Hit Pipeline Protesters With Up to 25 Years in Prison

"The so-called 'Riot Boosting' Act was clearly intended to suppress constitutionally-protected, peaceful protests of the Keystone XL pipeline."

Jake Johnson

Environmentalists celebrated Wednesday after a federal court temporarily blocked enforcement of a recently enacted South Dakota law that aims to hit pipeline protesters with fines and up to 25 years in prison.

Legal experts and green groups have decried the law, officially titled the Riot Boosting Act, as a flagrant violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution that was obviously targeted at Keystone XL opponents.

"The so-called 'Riot Boosting' Act was clearly intended to suppress constitutionally-protected, peaceful protests of the Keystone XL pipeline," said Stephen Pevar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, which filed suit to stop the law from taking effect. "We're glad the court recognized that these vague and overbroad laws threaten the First Amendment rights of South Dakotans on every side of the issue."

South Dakota is one of several Republican-controlled states to pass legislation in recent months to criminalize pipeline protests. In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed in to law a measure that would hit pipeline protesters with up to a decade in prison.

As Common Dreams reported in June, the Trump administration is also looking to punish anti-pipeline demonstrations at the federal level.

In his ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol wrote: "Imagine that if these riot boosting statutes were applied to the protests that took place in Birmingham, Alabama, what might be the result? Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference could have been liable under an identical riot boosting law."

Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network applauded the court's decision as "a good step in protecting our right to organize, educate, and promote a sustainable future for all generations of life."

"As Dakota," said Goldtooth, "it is our duty to protect the land and water, and speaking up on behalf of these sacred elements is essential to that endeavor."


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Given Cover by Red-Baiting GOP, Corporate Dems Rebuked for Tanking Biden Nominee for Top Bank Regulator

"If you think that Senate Democrats rose up to [Republicans'] shameful display of modern McCarthyism by rallying around President Biden's nominee or her ideas that banking should work for the middle class, then you don't know the soul of today's Democratic Party," wrote one columnist.

Julia Conley ·


'S.O.S.!': Groups in Red States Nationwide Plead With Democrats to Pass Voting Rights Bill

"We can tell you firsthand that our Republican senators have no interest in joining this effort."

Jake Johnson ·


Revealed: US Public Pension Funds Are 'Quiet Culprits of Climate Chaos'

One activist called divestment "an ethical responsibility" given that "maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production and investments will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe."

Jessica Corbett ·


'It Is Urgent': Progressives Push for Bill to Expand and Improve Social Security

"It's time to cast a vote on behalf of all beneficiaries. Not with cuts, but with improvements to their lives."

Andrea Germanos ·


Top Democrat Says US Tax Havens 'A Stunning Indictment' of Policy Failures

"Do we want America to stand for fairness or to be just another spot for billionaires' buried treasure?" asked Rep. Bill Pascrell.

Kenny Stancil ·

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