- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Minot Daily News, Minot, Nov. 2, 2016

Your tax dollars at work

The sizable protest of the Dakota Access pipeline has reached the national scale, attracting attention of the rest of the county and prompting many out of state residents to have very firm opinions (informed or not, mostly the latter). Yet, it’s us, North Dakota residents who are footing the bill for the whole scenario. Minot residents are among those who are having to pay for anti-fossil fuel, anti-business, anti-capitalist protesters from out of state to make a mockery of legal processes and revel in their self-righteousness.

Isn’t that just a great use of taxpayer money? Aren’t you certain that the Hollywood celebs, who are without work right now and thus able to fly in their private jets up here to protest fossil fuels, are going to chip in to pay us back and help fund our critical needs in education, health care and substance abuse solutions? Surely, the paid protester contingent is going to pony up for the infrastructure projects that aren’t going to be paid for because of North Dakota expenditures related to the protest.

A better use of our tax dollars would be to arrest and lock up every trespasser, every “activist” who damages private property, anyone closing down a public road, etc. Spend North Dakota money enforcing North Dakota laws.

There are certainly some protesters seeking to make a valid point about the pipeline. But even that position is dubious, since the pipeline did go through all legal processes despite what activists claim. Still, legal, peaceful protest is fine and it’s the only kind that has ever worked in this country, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified.

However, this protest has long ago exceeded legal and peaceful. If this was a protest of retired teamsters, authorities would have broken it up and hauled away those committing crimes. We are watching what happens when political correctness mandates appeasement, and it is an ugly thing. Maybe protesters would have plotted a different course if they didn’t know that the federal government was so quick to equivocate, so anti-capitalist itself.

Whatever happens as a result of the protest/festival and of the efforts of so many who don’t seem to have to work, the victims are taxpayers in Minot and around the state. We get to pay for what is now just a spectacle.

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The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Nov. 2, 2016

Police must enforce laws amid protests

Law enforcement did the right thing last week when they removed protesters from private land. They couldn’t allow the protesters to establish a camp on private property and block a highway. There were obvious violations of the law.

Officials gave the protesters ample warning that they were coming and they had an opportunity to withdraw, but many didn’t do so. To the outside world it may have appeared like a military operation, but law enforcement needed to protect themselves. Overall, the operation went smoothly with no serious injuries. It’s unfortunate the situation came to this, but some of the protesters refused to back off.

There seems to be some discontent in the camps with dissatisfaction growing over the more militant factions. Some would like to see them evicted. Part of the problem is the reluctance of the protesters to admit to any wrong. They don’t want to concede that law enforcement encountered resistance, not just verbal but physical. During Thursday’s removal of protesters, Tribune video captured protesters arguing over tactics. One was trying to put out a fire while encouraging others to retreat. Another urged protesters to stand their ground and force the issue. He wasn’t seeking a prayerful response.

As the camps begin to settle in for the winter it’s important they decide on their objectives. Are they fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline because they see it as a threat to their water supply or do they want to stop oil development? Has the protest morphed into battle for indigenous rights? The claim of eminent domain over the Dakota Access land based on the 1851 treaty was a stretch. It’s an issue that needs to be resolved in court, not by occupying land. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II seemed to shift the issue back to water on Saturday during a press conference. He asked that the pipeline be rerouted, though he didn’t suggest a new route. At the same time, the chairman said he’s considering a class action lawsuit against the state and law enforcement over the use of force.

The chance of an agreement between the different sides appears unlikely. As the Tribune noted before, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to decide on the easement for Dakota Access to go under the river. Until that decision, everything remains in limbo. Don’t expect a decision from the corps until after next week’s election. That means we can expect action of some kind by the protesters. Whether it’s just the continued use of social media to paint law enforcement and the state as heavy-handed aggressors using police state tactics on those arrested or the occupation of more land remains to be seen.

The state, rightfully, has made it clear that the law will be enforced. Civil disobedience comes with consequences. If you are arrested you can expect to spend time in a holding cell, especially if a large number of arrests have been made. It takes time to deal with dozens of people. Strip searches, while not pleasant, are part of the process to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Going to jail isn’t something anyone should want to experience. However, if protesters continue to defy the law that’s what they can expect.

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Williston Herald, Williston, Oct. 30, 2016

Divide County state’s attorney needs to embrace openness

Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan needs to remember that the court system in the United States is based on bedrock principles of openness and transparency.

There has been a troubling resistance to those principles coming from the Divide County State’s Attorney’s Office, most particularly in the case of State vs. William Koehler. After charges were first filed, Jordan asked the judge to deny expanded media coverage - photos and videos - of Koehler’s bond hearing. But he also went further than that, asking for the media to be excluded entirely.

He also asked the judge to instruct the media not to use the names of the two children killed in the crash. This was unusual, not least because the North Dakota Highway Patrol had released those named nearly a month beforehand. They were right to do so, because that is public information.

For Koehler’s preliminary hearing, which was held Thursday, he again opposed expanded media coverage, and again requested the courtroom be closed, citing his worries about the ability to find an impartial jury and the request of the family of the victims that there be no media coverage of the case.

We’re sure that Jordan is familiar with the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that prior restraint - prohibiting the press to cover a topic or court case - is unconstitutional and in direct opposition to the First Amendment. We will assume he was including that fact to further explain his opposition to expanded media coverage, rather than suggesting the First Amendment doesn’t apply in Divide County.

We are extremely sympathetic to the situation of that family. The crash, for which Koehler is facing three felony counts of manslaughter, was a tragedy, taking the lives of three family members from a small town. We intended to respect the family of those victims throughout our coverage, as we will with the families of any victims in any case.

We also understand the difficult position that Jordan no doubt finds himself in. State’s attorneys are charged with protecting victims and their families, and in smaller communities such as in Divide County, that puts him into close contact with them.

But he doesn’t just represent the victims and their family. The state’s attorney’s office represents the entire community, serving as a stand-in to ensure the public’s interests are protected and defended throughout criminal court proceedings.

The public’s interest is firmly on the side of entirely open court proceedings.

Jordan’s arguments against expanded media coverage at Koehler’s preliminary hearing included the possibility that evidence presented there might be ruled inadmissible at trial or that coverage could taint the jury pool because of the small size of the population in Divide County.

Both concerns are legitimate, but in his motion opposing expanded media coverage, Jordan offered nothing aside from the bare assertion that the problems might exist. The idea that Divide County’s small population could lead to a tainted jury pool is a particularly galling argument, as the same could be said about nearly any case anywhere in North Dakota.

He owes the public better than that.

The state’s Supreme Court has been clear that court proceedings are assumed open to the public, and that expanded media coverage is allowed except under very specific circumstances.

This is as it should be. The right of the public to attend and observe court proceedings, and the media’s right to cover those proceedings, are essential to ensuring the fairness of the court system. Denying that right for any reason other than the most extreme reasons risks undermining public confidence in the court.

We’re grateful that Northwest Judicial District Judge Robin Schmidt granted expanded media coverage, but we wish that Jordan had recognized the importance of open court proceedings himself and not opposed expanded media coverage in the first place.

In the future, Jordan would do well to bear in mind Thomas Jefferson’s quote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

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