‘Rioting’ Charges Dismissed against Journalist for Exposing State Repression Of Standing Rock Sioux
Journalist Amy Goodman speaks out after her charges were dropped for covering the brutal repression of peaceful water protectors
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: On Monday, a North Dakota judge, dismissed riot charges against award-winning journalist, Amy Goodman. Goodman had been originally charged with trespassing. But on Friday a local prosecutor acknowledge that trespassing charges wouldn’t stick and added rioting charges to her rap-sheet. A rally was held outside the North Dakota Court and at least 1 arrest was made. Hundreds had been arrested in actions against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Another journalist, including award-winning filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was last week charged with 3 felony counts for covering a protest, she can face up to 45 years in jail. Here’s Goodman’s statement from outside the North Dakota Courthouse, followed by our full interview of her discussing the importance of independent reporting and first amendment rights.
AMY GOODMAN: The judge’s decision to reject the State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson’s attempt to prosecute a journalist — in this case, me — is a great vindication of the First Amendment and of our right to report. On September 3rd, the Democracy Now! team came to North Dakota to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, to the resistance camps, to cover this epic struggle. Native people on the front lines, particularly Native American women, on the front lines, who are taking on, not only the Dakota Access pipeline, but a global issue of climate justice, taking on the global issue of global warming. Democracy Now! has been covering climate justice issues for the full 20 years that we have been broadcasting. We go to every UN climate summit. So often, it’s indigenous people on the front lines. We covered the Keystone XL pipeline. Now we’re covering the Dakota Access pipeline.
The important role of a journalist is to go to where the silence is. We should not be alone in the major media coming to cover this historic unification of Native Americans from more than 200 tribes — from Latin America to the United States to Canada. All of the media should be there, given the scope of this struggle. We encourage all of the media to come here. We certainly will continue to cover this struggle. It’s not only to protect the water and land rights, but it’s covering your right to speak, to be heard. We are not the only ones who have been charged. We faced misdemeanor. I faced misdemeanors. But I know there are a number of people who are going to court even as we speak here. Also important to point out other journalists who are being arrested.
The state’s attorney was attempting to stop journalism. The state’s attorney must respect freedom of the press and the First Amendment. On September 3rd, we came to North Dakota and covered the Native Americans going down the road from the camp to plant their tribal flags at their burial ground. They were surprised to learn at their sacred ground, and I’m sure a number of you were there, that the Dakota Access pipeline was actually actively excavating at that moment, on this holiday weekend. They urged the bulldozers to stop. The security guards came out with their dogs and pepper spray. The dogs bit the protesters. Democracy Now! videotaped the bloody dog with blood dripping from his mouth and his nose. Biting not only protesters, or protectors — the land and water protectors — but the Native Americans’ horses, as well. These images went viral. Fourteen million people, almost immediately, saw these images around the world.
All of the networks then published. Then played excerpts of that video: CBS Evening News, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, NPR. And it went on from there. We call that trickle-up journalism. The State cannot stop this journalism. The State must not stop this journalism. Violating the First Amendment is not good for North Dakota, it’s not good for this country. I want to point out my colleagues, the Democracy Now! team. John Hamilton, who continues to film today, as he has been filming with us. Laura Gottesdiener, Laura, where are you? Laura, wave your hand. Who is tireless in her reporting on these issues. And Denis Moynihan, behind me, this team was so critical in bringing out this story. I also want to thank Hany Massoud and again our lawyers Reed Brody and Tom Dickson.
Most importantly, I want to thank everybody for being here, for showing up, for standing up for freedom of the press. And standing up for freedom of the press goes beyond journalism. Freedom of the press is about the public’s right to know. That right to know is sacred. That’s what makes a democracy meaningful, when you are able to make informed decisions. We’ve got to open up the media to everyone’s voice. I see the media as a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe that we all sit around and debate and discuss the critical issues of the day. When you hear someone speak for themselves, a Lakota grandmother, an Ojibwe grandchild. It breaks down barriers. It challenges the caricatures and stereotypes that fuel the hate groups. It is so important that we open up this dialogue. You don’t have to agree with what you hear. But you begin to understand where people are coming from. That’s the beginning of peace. I think the media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth. Unfortunately, all too often it’s wielded as a weapon of war.
NOOR: On Thursday Award-winning independent journalist Amy Goodman announced she’s going to turn herself in to authorities in North Dakota over an outstanding warrant. The charge? Doing her job.
AMY GOODMAN: The state of North Dakota has issued an arrest warrant for me that didnt happen when I was there when the Democracy Now team on September 3rd was covering what’s taking place in North Dakota which is really historic. You have the largest unification of Native American tribes from Latin America, the United States, and Canada who are struggling right now for nothing less than the fate of the planet.
NOOR: On September 3, Goodman and a Democracy Now team released this report.
GOODMAN: We’re standing at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protestors advance as far as a small wooden bridge. Security unleashes one of the dogs ,which attacks two of the Native Americans horses.
It was Labor Day weekend. Saturday they were going to plant their tribal flags at the site of the tribal burial grounds and what they saw there were bulldozers in full gear, desecrating what they consider their sacred sites.
NOOR: Showing security for the Dakota Access Pipeline physically assaulting nonviolent, mostly Native American land and water protectors, pepper-spraying them and unleashing dogs, one of which was shown with blood dripping from its nose and mouth.
GOODMAN: It is still standing here threatening us. Why are you letting her dog go after the protestors? It’s covered in blood.
We were filming one dog whose mouth and nose were dripping with blood. The dogs bit a number of the people on the ground and it was terrifying. As Wenonah La Duke the indigenous leader from White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota said to the Governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple, you are not George Wallace. This is not Alabama. This is not 1963. Sicking dogs on protestors.
NOOR: It wasn’t until five days later, Goodman was charged with one count of criminal trespass and a warrant was issued for Goodman’s arrest. She could face 30 days in jail if convicted.
The gripping report produced by Goodman and her team was picked up by mainstream media outlets and viewed by millions.
GOODMAN: We released that video that night and it went viral, immediately. 14 million views and its way beyond that. The networks all took it. I call it trickle up journalism. NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NPR.
NOOR: Goodman’s story was crucial evidence that countered the police’s statements, which was repeated verbatim in many media outlets that the protesters were violent or that they attacked the security forces.
GOODMAN: The editor of the Bismarck Tribune apologized for their coverage the next day when they just brought out the views of the sheriff who wasn’t even there and the security guards. We were there on the ground. I talked to the security guards and the protestors alike. The security guards didn’t want to talk very much but they said a few things and we captured the entire scene on the ground.
NOOR: Corporate media had largely ignored or downplayed the coalescing movement against the Dakota Access pipeline. But as the Real News and other independent media has reported, that fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline had already spawned the largest convergence of native tribes in recent memory.
GOODMAN: The reason they took our credit and we welcome them. Steal the story please. Is because they weren’t there. So they showed all over the world, this video got shown. We left the next day. But 5 days later on the eve of a major court decision, the North Dakota Governor, Dalrymple, called out the National Guard. On that same day, the state of North Dakota issued an arrest warrant. I think it’s very clear what’s taking place. And that is that the authorities in the state of North Dakota don’t want us shining our cameras where it matters. For people to be able to speak for themselves, to describe their own experience. Democracy Now, this daily grassroots, global news outlet, covers movements. It’s our job to go to where the silence is.
NOOR: McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson, who is trying the case told the Bismarck Tribune. She’s a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”
GOODMAN: The important issue is that the prosecutor is raising the content of our coverage. That is why we have a first amendment. Its the separation of the state from journalism. You know we are not supposed to have state journalism here. There’ss a reason why our profession is the only one explicitly protected in the US constitution, because we’re supposed to be the check and balance on power. If the state doesn’t like what we are reporting, that is not an arrest-able offense. If it is, our democracy is in big trouble.
NOOR: The protests are not letting up. 27 were arrested on Tuesday. This week, another media professional, award-winning filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was charged with 3 felony counts for covering a protest. She could face up to 45 years in jail.
GOODMAN: These are historic front line struggles. It’s our job to be there. It’s our job to cover them. The state might not want us to shine the spotlight here but that is what we are supposed to be doing. You know the first amendment is not only about the press and freedom of the press. It is important because it is about the public’s right to know. In order to have a meaningful democracy, people have to know what is happening so they can make up their own informed minds. That’s why it’s so important that we’re on the front lines covering what’s happening.
People are putting their bodies on the line. Quite literally. People are putting their bodies on the pipeline. It’s a historic struggle by all accounts and it’s our job to be there. They shouldn’t be arresting journalism.
NOOR: Hundreds have been arrested protesting the $3.8-billion-dollar pipeline that would span 5 states if completed. It’s being backed by wealthy financial institutions and Donald Trump has personal investments in the pipeline. He nor Hillary Clinton have publicly commented on its construction.
GOODMAN: Well you know Jaisal, look at the period of time we’re in. At a time of presidential election that is absolutely critical, the debate’s hardly raising the issue of climate change. The Vice Presidential debate in the midst of Hurricane Matthew as a thousand people were dying in Haiti. At least 39 people have died in Southeastern United States in North Carolina. A number of them died of drowning when the rivers were rising. This is an absolutely critical time to take on this issue. If the elected leaders are not doing it, the people who are doing it are on the ground. It’s our job not just to put a microphone to those in power, cover these debates where they’re not asked about climate change. We’re talking about the fate of the planet.
Democracy Now goes to every UN climate summit. We’re there in Copenhagen and Cancun. We’re there in Durbin and Doha. We were there in Peru and Poland and Paris this past year. Marrakech is the next one up in Morocco. Climate change is a critical issue of the day. It’s the media’s responsibility to question these politicians about this and if they’re not going to do it, it’s our job to get out there and cover the people who are. And the people who are on the ground right now in North Dakota and it’s our job to be there.
NOOR: Goodman also has a long history of cutting edge journalism and putting her own body on the line to expose human rights abuses. Her work has earned her dozens of awards including the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, considered the alternative Nobel. Goodman is set to turn herself in on Monday.
For the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.