A North Dakota judge has dismissed the “riot” charges against Amy Goodman for covering the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. Just after the decision was announced, Amy addressed supporters outside the Morton County Courthouse. Her attorneys, Tom Dickson and Reed Brody, spoke first.
AMY GOODMAN: First of all, I would like to introduce my lawyer, Tom Dickson, and also—who is here from Bismarck, who will make a brief statement. As you may have heard, I was going into court today at 1:30 to face riot charges. Tom will speak, and then my other attorney, Reed Brody, will speak. And then I’d like to introduce you to the Democracy Now! team.
TOM DICKSON: Good afternoon, everybody. Good afternoon. On Friday afternoon, the criminal trespass charge, which was a frivolous criminal charge, was dismissed against Amy Goodman. At that time, we were—at that time, we were informally informed there would be a second charge filed against her: engaging in a riot, a Class B misdemeanor charge. And we were informed that she was to appear in front of the judge at 1:30 today to hear the charge and to get bond set. This morning, we were informed the judge refused to find probable cause for that charge. I spoke with the Morton County state’s attorney, Al Koppy, this afternoon. The case against Amy Goodman is now dismissed. And I just want to say now that the case is dismissed. Amy Goodman is a free woman.
REED BRODY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, and thank you for being out here. Let me just say that Amy Goodman was always a free woman. I think when the state, when the prosecutor misguidedly decided to file charges against Amy Goodman, she decided—he decided to go after the wrong person. Amy Goodman is not intimidated. And this dismissal, this rejection of the charges, is a complete vindication of the right of a journalist to report on the truth and, more importantly, the right of the public to know what is happening with the pipeline and with the struggle of the people here to protect their water and to protect their land.
AMY GOODMAN: It is a great honor to be here today. The judge’s decision to reject the State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson’s attempt to prosecute a journalist—in this case, me—is a great vindication of the First Amendment and of our right to report.
On September 3rd—on September 3rd, the Democracy Now! team came to North Dakota to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, to the resistance camps, to cover this epic struggle, Native people on the front lines, particularly Native American women, on—on the front lines, who are taking on not only the Dakota Access pipeline, but a global issue of climate—climate justice, taking on the global issue of global warming. Democracy Now! has been covering climate justice issues for the full 20 years that we have been broadcasting. We go to every U.N. climate summit. So often, it’s indigenous people on the front lines. We covered the Keystone XL pipeline. Now we’re covering the Dakota Access pipeline.
And the important role of a journalist is to go to where the silence is. We should not be alone in the major media coming to cover this historic unification of Native Americans from more than 200 tribes, from Latin America to the United States to Canada. All of the media should be there, given the scope of this struggle. And we encourage all of the media to come here. We certainly will continue to cover this struggle. It’s not only to protect the water and land rights, but it’s your—but it’s covering your right to speak, to be heard.
We are not the only ones who have been charged. We faced misdemeanor. I faced misdemeanors. But I know there are a number of people who are going to court even as we speak here. Also important to point out other journalists who are being arrested.
The state’s—the state’s attorney was attempting to stop journalism. The state’s attorney must respect freedom of the press and the First Amendment. On September 3rd, we came to North Dakota and covered the Native Americans going down the road from the camp to plant their tribal flags at their burial ground. They were surprised to learn at their sacred ground—and I’m sure a number of you were there—that the Dakota Access pipeline was actually actively excavating at that moment on this holiday weekend. They urged the bulldozers to stop. The security guards came out with their dogs and pepper spray. The dogs bit the protesters. Democracy Now! videotaped the bloody dog with blood dripping from his mouth and his nose, biting not only protesters, or protectors, the land and water protectors, but the Native Americans’ horses, as well. These images went viral. Fourteen million people, almost immediately, saw these images around the world. All of the networks then published, then played excerpts of that video—CBS Evening News, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, NPR. And it went on from there. We call that trickle-up journalism. The state cannot stop this journalism. The state must not stop this journalism. Violating the First Amendment is not good for North Dakota, it’s not good for this country.
I want to—we, together—and I want to point out my colleagues, the Democracy Now! team. John Hamilton, who continues to film today, as he has been filming with us. Laura Gottesdiener—Laura, where are you? Laura, wave your hand—who is tireless in her reporting on these issues. And Denis Moynihan, behind me, who is—this team was so critical in bringing out this story. I also want to thank Hany Massoud and, again, our lawyers Reed Brody and Tom Dickson.
Most importantly, I want to thank everybody for being here, for showing up, for standing up for freedom of the press. And standing up for freedom of the press goes beyond journalism. Freedom of the press is about the public’s right to know. That right to know is sacred. That’s what makes a democracy meaningful, when you are able to make informed decisions. We’ve got to open up the media to everyone’s voice. I see the media as a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe that we all sit around and debate and discuss the critical issues of the day. When you hear someone speak for themselves—a Lakota grandmother, an Ojibwe grandchild—it breaks down barriers. It challenges the caricatures and stereotypes that fuel the hate groups. It is so important that we open up this dialogue. You don’t have to agree with what you hear, but you begin to understand where people are coming from. That’s the beginning of peace. I think the media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth. Unfortunately, all too often it’s wielded as a weapon of war, which is why we have to take the media back.
Thank you for coming out here today. We will continue to cover what happens at the resistance camps, what happens on the reservation, what happens at the excavation sites, what happens behind the bars in the Mandan jail. One of the issues we’ve covering now extensively, just today, is the number of people charged with low-level misdemeanors, like, oh, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, the pediatrician on the reservation, on the Standing Rock Reservation, charged with disorderly conduct, brought to this jail and strip-searched. The chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, its chair, Standing Rock Sioux’s Dave Archambault, charged in a civil disobedience, brought to this jail and strip-searched. It is very important that we cover all of these issues. More than 140 people have been arrested so far. Democracy Now! will continue to be there, this daily grassroots global news hour.
We send a shout out to the media at the camp, to Native media all over. It’s so important that your voices are broadcast, that you capture what’s happening on the ground, as well, and that we demand that the corporate media also come here and broadcast the voices of those who are on the front lines of democracy. Democracy Now! is about movements. It’s movements that make history. Thank you for being here, for talking to us. Democracy now!