South Dakota sued over new laws aimed at preventing another Standing Rock

Civil liberties organizations and activists are pushing back against new laws which criminalize protests and free speech related to pipeline projects.

In late March, a coalition of Native activists, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of South Dakota filed suit against the State of South Dakota in an effort to repeal recently passed state laws aimed at curbing “rioters” during the upcoming construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. South Dakota Senate Bill 189 and SB 190 have created controversy due to the potential to prevent peaceful and legal protest of environmental projects.

Senate Bill 189, also known as the Riot Boosting Act, grants the state the authority to sue any individual or organization for what they call “riot-boosting,” or encouraging and/or participating in acts of force or violence. SB 190 sets up funding to pay for state, county, and local police to combat potential pipeline protesters. This means that any individual who is attending a protest or rally against the Keystone Pipeline (or other future pipeline) could become subject to civil or criminal penalties, whether they engage in violence or not. The plaintiffs in the suit argue that the language of the bill is vague and does not clearly define what type of conduct or speech is considered “riot-boosting” or encouraging a riot.