NORMAN, Oklahoma—The Native American Journalists Association expresses relief and gratitude that the criminal charges against Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman have been dismissed by Judge John Grinsteiner in North Dakota District Court.
Goodman traveled to Morton County, North Dakota, to report on a gathering of peaceful protestors who stand in opposition to an oil pipeline installation near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Protestors—engaged in nonviolent, civil disobedience—have been met with an inordinate police presence, arrests and harassment by pipeline workers, private security contractors and local law enforcement. Goodman’s reports and international broadcast of this event are significant because this is the largest intertribal protest gathering in recent history and she is one of the few nationally broadcast journalists to provide meaningful coverage of these rapidly transpiring events.
Goodman, who was clearly credentialed as a reporter and with a film crew, reported on a confrontation between private contractors with trained dogs and pepper spray and unarmed civilians. She was later cited with criminal trespass and a warrant for her arrest was issued. Before trial, Morton County prosecuting attorney Ladd Erickson filed a motion to dismiss the charge of criminal trespass and instead filed a proposed charge of riot. Judge Grinsteiner dismissed this charge due to insufficient evidence.
It is the stance of NAJA that these charges were an outrageous abuse of power and naked attempt to intimidate and discourage journalists from covering events that government officials want to remain out of public view. We applaud the action of the court to dismiss this frivolous motion by the county prosecutor as wholly without merit.
In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald, Erickson said, “She’s a protestor, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”
Our democracy is only as strong as our collective will to uphold our freedoms of expression, an independent press and the public’s right to know. This collective will is a responsibility that must be shared equally by citizens, industry and government. When industry and government collude to undermine and curtail these freedoms, it corrodes the foundational principles of our society. We admonish Erickson and his cynical actions to silence the press and the people’s right to know about these important events that will have ramifications for generations to come.