Charged with rioting for reporting on the North Dakota oil pipeline protests, Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman appeared in court on Monday as the judge rejected the absurd criminal charges against her. Instead of deterring reporters from covering the recent protests, the state’s attorney only drew more attention toward the conflict against the Dakota Access pipeline.
On September 3, Goodman visited North Dakota to interview people protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline. In the Democracy Now! video of the protest, security guards working for the pipeline company could be seen using pepper spray and attack dogs against the protestors.
“The dog has blood in its nose and its mouth,” Goodman observed in the video. “Why are you letting their, her dog go after the protesters? It’s covered in blood.”
On September 8, State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson charged Goodman with criminal trespassing and issued a warrant for her arrest. Ignoring Goodman’s constitutional rights as a journalist, Erickson accused her of participating as a protestor despite the fact that the video clearly shows her covering the event as a reporter.
Unable to establish a viable trespassing case against Goodman, the state dropped the charge but added a count of rioting against her on October 14. Returning to North Dakota to face the charges against her, Goodman appeared in court on Monday to plead not guilty.
Instead, District Judge John Grinsteiner rejected the rioting charge due to the fact that he could not find probable cause to justify the charges against Goodman. If convicted, Goodman could have faced months in jail.
“I wasn’t trespassing. I wasn’t rioting. I was simply doing my job as a reporter,” Goodman told the Committee to Protect Journalists. “I think the state’s attorney is sending out a message that reporters should not come to the state of North Dakota.”
Previously arrested in 2008 while covering protests at the Republican National Convention, Goodman later received a $100,000 settlement from a First Amendment lawsuit against the state of Minnesota and several law enforcement agencies. Last week, actor Shailene Woodley and 26 other activists were arrested for participating in the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota.
“This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public’s right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline,” Goodman told Democracy Now! on Monday. “We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet.”