Warrant Issued for Amy Goodman’s Arrest for DAPL Reporting: Watch Your Back!

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends most of her time in India and other parts of Asia researching a book about textile artisans. She also writes regularly about legal, political economy, and regulatory topics for various consulting clients and publications, as well as writes occasional travel pieces for The National.

I guess that you might expect a film showing security guards unleashing dogs and pepper spray on those protesting the Dakota Access oil Pipeline (DAPL) would be bound to get someone’s attention. Surely it might lead to an arrest or at minimum, disciplinary measures against those who employed such tactics against non-violent protestors. After all, the optics of such measures surely rebound against those who order them to be unleashed (anyone remember Selma, for example?)

Well, if you thought that, you would be wrong. We don’t live in sane times.

Instead, a warrant has been issued in Morton County, North Dakota for the arrest of award-winning journalist Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, on a charge of criminal trespassing, a Class B misdemeanor offense, as reported by the local Dickinson Press. Goodman and her team have been in the forefront of covering the DAPL protests. On September 3, they filmed security personnel working for the pipeline company using dogs and pepper spray to attack protesters. That graphic report, which may be viewed here, went viral and was rebroadcast widely by CBS, NBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and the Huffington Post, among other outlets.

“This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press,” said Amy Goodman in a statement. “I was doing my job by covering pipeline guards unleashing dogs and pepper spray on Native American protesters.”

So much for heeding the reminder that the First Amendment applies as spelled out in the statement issued by the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interiors on Friday that asked for “voluntary” suspension of DAPL construction within a forty mile area surrounding Lake Oahe:

Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities. The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.

Now, to be sure, the government statement doesn’t explicitly mention allowing the press to do its job. But, the last time checked, the First Amendment still applies to such press activities:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’m wondering whether they have copies of the US Constitution in Morton County. I mean, seriously, who could have thought that issuing such an arrest warrant was a good idea– especially after the feds stepped in and essentially asked everyone to take a time out. At whose instigation was this move undertaken? I can’t get my mind around what the move was designed to achieve: did they think they would actually shut down Amy Goodman?

Morton County officials have also issued arrest warrants for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka on misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. That case is not so straightforward, as Stein has admitted to spray painting construction equipment during protests last week. She has promised to return to North Dakota to face the charges and is now working with her attorneys and North Dakota authorities to fix a court date, according to the Chicago Tribune.

So far, 38 arrests have been made related to the DAPL protests, according to the Dickinson Press, which also reports that the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board is investigating the use of dogs by security personnel in connection with the protests as well as whether the personnel were properly licensed or registered to work in North Dakota.

Some strange things going down in North Dakota, however, and they don’t augur well for those who are peacefully engaging in constitutionally protected activity, including peaceful protest and press coverage. I noticed, for example, that the state
recently became the first to authorize the use of armed drones by police Watch your back, Amy! (And keep an eye peeled to the front and sides as well.)

Protests are not likely to go away, at least in the longer term. In an obvious attempt to defuse the situation, the three federal agencies on Friday called for a temporary halt in construction on a small portion of DAPL shortly after federal district court judge James E. Boasberg declined to issue an injunction stopping construction throughout the pipeline’s entirety. Yet as I argue here, there is far less to this federal action than meets the eye, and with the possible exception of the Lake Oahu section,the pipeline company will press on with construction as it is committed to supply contracts that kick in in 2017.

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52 comments

    1. V. Arnold

      Ditto; but then I left 6 weeks after Bush invaded Iraq.
      Almost 14 years later it’s gotten worse, for a certainty. The angle of repose has stabilized at about 45°…

      1. tongorad

        I too, left during the Bush reign, but then came back after 12 years away. Mistake, I think.
        I hate it here.

          1. V. Arnold

            I got a job offer from an American toy compny in April, 2003; it was in rural Thailand. I left the company after a year, but stayed and taught English for 5 years. I’m now retired.

    2. Katharine

      >Anyone patriotic is ignorant.
      Not necessarily. They don’t all define patriotism the same way.

      Carl Schurz, German immigrant, later congressman:

      “My country right or wrong: when right to be kept right, when wrong to be put right.”

  1. Roger Smith

    A Warrant? I would argue that this is one of those special journalist endeavors that wins people attention and recognition (like a best of the year award). Without Goodman and her crew, nobody would have known about this. It would have all been hearsay and blown off, if not ignored all together.

    So a press crew, protected by the Constitution on multiple levels, films the unwarranted attack of other individuals whom are protected by the Constitution, and then they get an arrest warrant?

    1. RepubAnon

      Just remember: North Dakota is Trump Country. If The Donald pulls out a win in November, either by a straight win or by having the election thrown to the Republican House of Representatives by the Electoral College, this is the type of treatment protesters can expect everywhere.

      Remember, “Donald Trump says he wants to open up libel laws, and he says should be allowed to sue news outlets that publish stories he deems are wrong.“, so anyone reporting on protests in a Trump-lead America would be sued for defamation by deep-pocketed corporations.
      Remember Gawker?

  2. diptherio

    The government just wishes people would stop being so pushy and be happy with a little group sing-along or something. From the looks of the video from that day, it appeared that the protectors pushed down a fence and entered what is most likely private land. So, yup, they were indeed trespassing, according to the law. But like I mentioned yesterday, I don’t think these activists are going to be deterred by some words on paper.

    I think we need to make a real clear distinction, starting now, about the difference between “violence” against property and actual violence against humans. Jill Stein did not engage in any violence by spray-painting a bull-dozer blade, nor did the protectors by tearing down a fence. The guards with the dogs and the pepper-spray were the only ones engaged in violence. The PTB will likely be trying to fuzzy that distinction in the coming days.

    1. MtnLife

      It’s impossible to vandalize the working end of a bulldozer blade to the point of damages. If anything, she applied a protective coating and should bill them accordingly.

      1. Paid Minion

        I’d have been more impressed (to say nothing of more entertained) if she had burned the bulldozer).

        The only thing that is dumber is that someone actually filed charges on her.

        Putting graffitti on the dozer blade = meaningless jesture.

    2. Nelson Lowhim

      Yeah, but we know the violence the state is capable of and they might unleash it as they have before. Removing cameras and journalists doesn’t bode well as a first step

      1. RBHoughton

        Wait until the lawyers get hold of it. “In law what plea so tainted and corrupt but being seasoned with a gracious voice obscures the show of evil.”

  3. Vatch

    Jeez. This reminds me of the laws in some states that prohibit filming or photography of factory farms. Welcome to the Soviet States of America.

  4. steelhead23

    Pay attention. Journalists are under attack around the globe. Make no mistake, the Deep State supports such intimidation to maintain its exploitation of labor and the environment. That such intimidation has found its way to the U.S. is only marginally surprising. Expect more.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Fixed! It is indeed, and thanks for pointing it out– but nt my fingers, but the d*^% autocorrect. I have typed the word many times over the last several days, and the machine keeps “fixing” it for me. Try to thwart that but obviously missed this one.

  5. JohnnyGL

    I heard on NPR this morning that more tribes are getting involved and showing some solidarity with the Dakota protestors. That’s good to hear. The more noise they make, the better.

    This is really obnoxious from the local authorities. Is a pipeline delay some kind of existential threat for them? If they get heavy-handed like this, the feds will have to step in and save Obama from being embarrassed any further.

    1. a different chris

      Quite possibly – to them anyway. The oil bidness is the only high-paying jobs available. Not that they will last but if you’ve got nothin’… Funny how the so free westerners are so desperate.

      1. Lynne

        Actually the Dickinson paper also reported that the guards are under investigation. Perhaps they are simply trying to attempt being evenhanded when it comes to people actually causing damage. I’d like to think that, except it doesn’t explain going after the reporter, which is more what I’d expect to see out of some third world country. Then again, the amount of corruption and influence peddling going on in Washington does make us look like a third world country.

  6. Eclair

    Ridiculous that the North Dakota authorities have charged two ‘pushy’ women, Amy Goodman and Jill Stein, with ‘trespassing’ as they supported and filmed resistance against what has been centuries of structural violence, if not actual genocide, against this continent’s original inhabitants.

    But, if you are a Native … an educated, articulate Native who acts as the media spokesperson for the Sacred Stones and Red Warrior Camps … you get charged. Then you actually get arrested. Handcuffed and hauled off to jail.

    Cody Hall was taken into custody yesterday (?) at a traffic stop. (Sorry, can’t find the article I read late last night on FB; only some references to his arrest, but no details. I’ll keep searching.)

    1. Lynne

      Not to comment on the merits of any of the charges, but the reason Hall’s arrest was handled differently was because he was charged with actually damaging equipment on a different date (according to the linked article). It’s a higher level misdemeanor so it meant booking through jail and seeing a magistrate. You are attributing the difference in procedure to race, when it’s due to a difference in the level of offense charged.

  7. Faye Carr

    It’s the CHILLING effect I’m worried about
    Going to be even harder for activists to reach out for media coverage for any planned protests or activist events.

    1. a different chris

      Sigh. Yeah, thanks media. Everybody just breathlessly report spoonfed crap from Silicone Valley and you’ll be safe. Hey there’s the iCar! — well, there isn’t an iCar, but there could be. Or not! Anyway I’ve reported on it.

  8. Eclair

    Thanks, Jerri-Lynn. Nice that they picked him up on a Friday and, oops, justice takes the weekend off.
    I’m using public internet this morning and searches are interminable. Can’t stand the wait.

  9. Greg Kramer

    So we still utilize attack dogs on protesters, (read Animal Farm by Orwell) And pepper spray is the du jour tactic of our riot gearded PDs against peaceful protesters, (see Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street)

  10. E Williams

    Those wishing to correspond with the official likely responsible for the charges can try this address:

    Allen M. Koppy
    Morton County State’s Attorney
    210 2nd Ave. NW
    Mandan, ND 58554
    Fax (701) 667-3474
    allen.koppy@mortonnd.org

  11. jeff

    The obvious question which this article is ignoring is whether or not she was trespassing. The First Amendment generally does not immunize otherwise criminal conduct. Absent that information, there is absolutely no unbiased way to judge whether this is an overzealous prosecutor possibly in the pocket of the builder of the pipeline or a dedicated and even handed public official following the law. My apologies if I missed the actual facts somewhere.

    1. Edward

      The pipeline is being built partly on land that was seized by eminent domain, so the question of trespass may not be so clear.

    2. a different chris

      Maybe. A little weird that the white people (Jill Stein, Amy Goodman) aren’t in jail but the NA is, don’t ya think?

  12. crittermom

    While I remain on the side of the protesters in opposition to the pipeline, this was the first I read of Jill Stein spray-painting a bulldozer. Seriously?

    Had she just gone there to show her solidarity such as Bernie did with the Verizon employees, I would have admired that action.

    To find out she actually spray-painted something made me lose some respect for her.
    To me it comes off as immature and the wrong action of someone running for POTUS. Just plain dumb, IMO.

    1. Nelson Lowhim

      Perhaps there’s a difference in how some of us see spray painting? Some of us see it as merely a different way of making a statement (and not part of some criminal activity). That being said, that she might have refrained if only for the hopes of the green party

    2. J Bookly

      As Mtn Life pointed out above, no vandalism was involved. Jill was simply applying a protective coating to the bulldozer’s blade. :) I’m still planning to vote for her.

      1. bob

        I’d like to clarify this-

        Spray painting a dozer blade is akin to drawing with your finger in dust on a car hood.

        One push from the dozer, into the dirt, and it’s gone. Less than the car hood, which requires a wash. Through normal operation it would be removed from the blade in less than a few seconds.

        Property…the new person

    3. The Angry Quahog

      crittermom: According to the whole story on DN, she was there just to show solidarity. The protectors asked her to tag the bulldozer. She walked up to it and sprayed “I approve this message”. That’s all. I wish the press would put that qualifier in, so that she sounds less like an attention-seeking instigator and more like a reasonable person attending the rally. To me, the fact that she is willing to risk physical and legal troubles for her beliefs, rather than hide behind meaningless words and a podium, speaks volumes about her character. I voted for her in 2012 and will do so again this year.

  13. Portia

    Depends on from whose perspective the “developing” is considered. I expect that the pipeline bringing fuel is going to get that “broadest interest” vote from the PTB. Not the aquifer. Let them drink LPG!

    It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.

  14. Kim Kaufman

    “Watch your back, Amy! (And keep an eye peeled to the front and sides as well.)”

    Don’t worry about Amy, she’ll take care of herself just fine. She’ll dine on this story for months if not years. She can throw some red meat to the base and try to get back some cred she lost by ignoring Bernie through the entire primary.

  15. different clue

    Is the company behind this pipeline behind other already-running pipelines? Is the oil this company ships through its pipelines evenly divided between every refinery in the country? Or does it go to certain refineries? Are the refined products then divided up for sale evenly between refined-oil-products-selling company in the country? Or do certain companies sell a higher percent of these particular oil products than other companies do?

    Is it possible to design a surgically-targeted extermimcott designed to exterminate particular oil companies involved with this particular pipeline company? Failing that, is it at least possible to design a surgically targeted torturecott against those particular oil companies designed to torture them into cancelling this pipeline?

    Protest can only draw attention to an issue. Protest can not in itself exterminate a project in mid-build and keep it exterminated. It becomes up to all the people reached by word and image of the protest to figure out how to exterminate the project. If certain oil companies could be demonstrated to be uniquely dependent on this and other pipelines run by this company, then those certain oil companies could be targeted with torturecotts and/or extermicotts designed to force this project into extermination.

    Has any journalist done an article on those links and connections? Whose oil goes through this company’s pipelines? How to extermicott or at least torturecott those particular companies whose particular oil this is? In order to stop this pipeline by brute force? ( Which is the only force there is, after all).

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