Judge rejects riot charges against U.S. journalist over pipeline protests
Proposed riot charges against Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman were dismissed by a North Dakota judge on Monday.
In September, Goodman filmed Native American protestors being attacked by security guards as they protested against the building of the North Dakota Access Pipeline.
Goodman's video showed guards unleashing dogs and using pepper spray. The clip, which has since been viewed over 14 million times on Facebook, also featured people with bite injuries and a dog with blood dripping from its mouth and nose.
Goodman initially faced charges for criminal trespassing. Those charges were dropped on Friday, and she was instead charged with participating in a riot.
This morning, the American journalist turned herself in. Amy Goodman spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off after leaving the court.
Carol Off: Amy, what did the judge say about why this rioting charge against you was thrown out?
Amy Goodman: Clearly, the judge just refused to authorize the riot charges that the prosecutor had brought. He didn't comment. He just didn't sign off on them. And, it shows how malicious and frivolous this attempted prosecution has been from the beginning.
CO: Tell us what is happening at that point.
AG: It was shocking. Native Americans were about the perform a ceremony. They see the bulldozers in full gear desecrating their sacred site. They told the bulldozers to stop and the security for the North Dakota Access Pipeline - some of them who had dogs - unleashed these dogs like a deadly weapon. We are showing film with a dog with its mouth and nose dripping with blood. The guards would push the dogs into the protestors. Those were the images that just went viral when we posted it online and broadcasted it on the Democracy Now! news hour where 14 million viewed these horrific images.
CO: North Dakota state prosecutor Ladd Erickson said that you were not acting like a journalist. He said, "She's a protestor basically. Everything she reported on was from the position on justifying the protest actions." What do you say to that?
AG: This is so ridiculous. Here is a state attorney saying he did not like my journalism, saying that he did not like the fact that I was talking to the protestors. In the criminal complaint, they said that you can see me identifying myself asking the protestors questions. That's exactly what I was doing. I was [also] asking the guards what they were doing. I clearly identified myself as a reporter from New York and asked the guards what they were doing. Ladd Erickson may not like the journalism. Then, charge me with the crime of journalism.
There are very few major media companies covering this struggle. This is a struggle that must be covered. I think what the state attorney was attempting to do, was send a message to journalists: "Do not come to North Dakota." Today, I think for a moment, we see that the door is open and people shouldn't be afraid.
CO: What about for other journalists? Do you think this will have a chilling effect on those who are covering these protests?
AG: Absolutely. But, when people and journalists see that these charges were dropped, that's a step in the right direction. There is a level of escalation of repression here that must be exposed. We just interviewed the pediatrician on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. She was arrested on a very low level misdemeanour charge - disorderly conduct. She was taken to the jail and she was strip searched and put in an orange jumpsuit. The chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, David Archambault, was also arrested in one of the protests. He too was brought to the jail and strip searched. This is what needs to be exposed. This is why journalists need to be here.
For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Amy Goodman.