Media Contact

Janna Farley, jfarley@aclu.org

February 12, 2020

Today, in a 10-3 vote, the House Stata Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill that would intimidate peaceful protestors and chip away at their constitutional rights.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1117, legislation that repeals and revises certain provisions regarding riot, establishes the crime of incitement to riot and revises provisions regarding civil liability for riot and riot boosting.

It’s irrefutable that this bill, like the 2019 “Riot Boosting Act” it replaces, was sparked by a desire to suppress protests around the Keystone XL pipeline. While proponents of this bill say they’re concerned only about riots, the context is clear: this legislation is a direct reaction to some of the most effective protests in modern American history, including the work done by water protectors challenging the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

“The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment,” said Candi Brings Plenty, indigenous justice organizer for the ACLU of South Dakota. “House Bill 1117 and the narrative surrounding it only creates a state of fear that pits activists and organizers who are exercising their First Amendment rights against government officials and law enforcement.”

Additionally, House Bill 1117 raises a fundamental question: How will the State of South Dakota ensure that the rights of the people planning to peacefully protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are protected?

“We believe there is a different way to address concerns of public safety and peaceful protest and to create an environment in which the government recognizes its obligation to ensure the rights of water protectors and advocates are protected, not erased,” Brings Plenty said.

In addition to the ACLU of South Dakota, NDN Collective, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action also oppose House Bill 1117.

About the ACLU of South Dakota

Based in Sioux Falls, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.

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