- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2019

South Dakota’s governor pushed through the state Legislature this week two bills that would authorize police to crack down on “riot boosting” in protests against the Keystone XL pipeline, which could start being constructed as early as this summer.

The two bills backed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem aim to prevent the type of large-scale protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that stymied authorities in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017. The legislation would create a civil offense called “riot boosting” and set up a fund to offset the costs of policing rioters.

The Republican-dominated state Senate passed the legislation on near-party line votes Thursday. The bills were introduced on Monday.

“These bills are pro-economic development, pro-free speech, and take a proactive approach to spreading the risk and costs associated with building a pipeline,” Ms. Noem said.

The legislation defines “riot boosting” as participating in and/or directing a riot, as well as advising or encouraging someone else to riot. It would set up an escrow fund of local, state, federal and pipeline company dollars to cover city and county costs incurred from cracking down on rioters.

Following Thursday’s passage, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota announced it is reviewing its options for a lawsuit.

“Senate Bill 189 creates an entirely new category of civil liability under South Dakota law that is motivated by a fear of speech and protest,” an ACLU spokesman said in a email.

North Dakota spent more than $20 million in policing the protests, and this year completed the last of 70 trials that resulted from hundreds of arrests.

The Keystone XL pipeline was given a green light early on in the Trump administration after being effectively sidelined by the Obama administration. The proposed 2,000-mile pipeline would carry oil sands from Alberta by TransCanada, cross into Montana and weave its way southeast through South Dakota into Nebraska before meeting up with an existing pipeline to ferry the contents to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

While the pipeline’s proposed route does not cross any current Native American reservation, it would come very close to several tribal borders and cross over ancestral lands held by tribes. Three Lakota nations released statements opposing Ms. Noem’s bills.

“Together these bills send the message that the state of South Dakota is more interested in getting paid to suppress its citizens’ rights than it is paying attention to the rights of its citizens,” Remi Bald Eagle, spokesman for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told The Associated Press.

Thousands of environmentalists, activists and others flocked to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation at the mouth of the Cannonball River to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016-17. Crowd control costs devoured state and county budgets. Local jails swelled, and police worked overtime. The governor even mobilized the National Guard.

South Dakota House Democratic leader Jamie Smith, who opposed the anti-riot boosting legislation, echoed the concerns of other state leaders about prospective protests.

“None of us want to have anything but peaceful protests,” he said. “The Legislature, the tribes — that’s not what we want.”

Mr. Smith objected to how the legislation had been introduced. In a process called “hothousing,” the bills had been presented as blank slates, and their text was filled in Monday morning while state tribal leaders — the most vocal opponents of the pipeline — were attending congressional hearings in the District of Columbia.

“This is not the normal, standard operating procedure,” Mr. Smith said. “Last week, we had a tribal relations day at the Capitol, and it was a very positive day, where we were sharing successes and giving hugs, and then Monday we got this. They [Ms. Noem’s team] knew this would be a contentious issue. While they say [the pipeline] don’t affect the tribes, that’s not true.”

He said he believes the riot-boosting provisions would infringe on people’s right to protest.

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