Judge disallows rioting charge against "Democracy Now" host

Andrea Perez | Newsgathering | News | October 17, 2016

"Democracy Now!" journalist Amy Goodman announced to a crowd outside the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, N.D., that Judge John Grinsteiner refused to formalize charges against her for participating in a riot while she was covering a pipeline protest in the state.

Goodman originally faced a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in response to her Sept. 3 coverage of a protest against the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. She learned the trespass charge was dropped when she returned to North Dakota to continue reporting on the protests, but late last week learned that the state's attorney wanted to bring a more serious charge of participating in a riot.

In an article published earlier this week, Democracy Now! stated that in an email with Goodman’s attorney, the North Dakota State Attorney dropped the trespassing charge after noting the "legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute." The attorney also mentioned that Goodman was not acting as a journalist since her reporting focussed only on the protesters.

“Today, the judge sided with freedom and freedom of the press,” Goodman said to reporters after the hearing. “I did not trespass, I did not riot. I simply did my job.”

Goodman’s coverage caught images of protesters attaching themselves to construction tools in hopes of causing delays, but also showed Dakota Access Pipeline security guards physically assaulting nonviolent protesters, pepper-spraying them and allowing guard dogs to bite some of them.

Throughout the seven-minute video, Goodman is heard narrating the unfolding events, conducting interviews and occasionally appearing in front of the camera.

Goodman was arrested with more than a dozen protesters who objected to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The pipeline, which is estimated to stretch 1,172 miles in length, will transport oil between North Dakota and Illinois production areas. Protesters say that construction of the line would desecrate the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s sacred sites and burial grounds. They also argue that a fracture in the pipe could pollute the Missouri River.

During her speech, Goodman emphasized on the vindication of freedom of the press and stated that reporters should be able to report freely without state intervention.

“We have a right to report,” she said. “It is important that we are there to report. The freedom of the press is the public’s right to know.”