South Dakota riot boosting laws will not be enforced

PIERRE, S.D. (KOTA TV) - South Dakota’s controversial riot boosting laws will get the boot if a judge approves a settlement between Gov. Kristi Noem and four groups represented by the ACLU.

South Dakota's 2019 Legislature passed a law that pipeline protesters believed was unconstitutional. (KOTA TV)

This follows a September ruling by U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol who found the anti-protest segments of several laws passed by the South Dakota Legislature earlier this year were unconstitutional. The judge temporarily blocked the laws from being enforced.

In the settlement, according to an ACLU release, the state agrees to not enforce state laws that prohibit protected speech and are aimed at suppressing protests against the Keystone XL pipeline.

In reaction the settlement, Noem released this statement:

“Today, my team reached an agreement that will resolve the Dakota Rural Action v. Noem litigation. If the court approves our agreement, the state can begin work to update crimes that have been on the books since South Dakota became a state. We remain focused on preserving law and order while protecting the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. It’s important to note that it is still illegal to riot in South Dakota. No one has the right to incite violence.

My team and I are continuing to work to protect people, property, and the environment, all while making sure the crimes on our books are in line with current constitutional law.”

A letter from the state will reportedly be sent to every county state’s attorney, telling them not to enforce unconstitutional aspects of the riot boosting laws.

One of the laws – Senate Bill 198 – established a fund with money collected as damages from anyone who “participates in any riot and directs, advises, encourages, or solicits any other person participating in the riot to acts of force or violence” as well as anyone who doesn’t participate in the act but encourages or solicits others who do so.

According to the ACLU, the plaintiffs are currently protesting or plan to protest the Keystone XL pipeline; as well as encourage others to do so.

If the riot boosting laws had been able to withstand judicial scrutiny, the groups could have been criminally charged for participating in protests against the Keystone XL pipeline planned to go through western South Dakota.

The groups include the Sierra Club, NDN Collective, Dakota Rural Action and the Indigenous Environmental Network; as well as two people – Nick Tilsen with NDN Collective and Dallas Goldtooth with Indigenous Environmental Network.