Amy Goodman outside the courthouse. C: Democracy Now!
Amy Goodman outside the courthouse. C: Democracy Now!

Yesterday, a North Dakota judge today refused to authorize riot charges against the award-winning journalist from Democracy Now! Amy Goodman for her reporting on protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

According to Democracy Now! the District Judge, John Grinsteiner, “did not find probable cause to justify the charges filed on Friday, Oct. 14 by State’s Attorney Ladd R Erickson”.

Speaking after the decision, Goodman said: “This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public’s right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

She added: “We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet.”

The charges in State of North Dakota v. Amy Goodman stemmed from early September when Goodman reported on the fast escalating protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline which have since made news around the world.

Her footage of protesters being bitten and pepper-sprayed by security guards went viral on the internet and has now been watched more than 14 million times on Facebook.

“On Saturday in Dakota, security guards working for the Dakota Access Pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they resisted the $3.8 billion dollar pipeline’s construction”, she said.

Days after the footage was shot, an arrest warrant was issued for Goodman. At first the charges were “criminal trespass”, which was downgraded to participation in a “riot”.

Reed Brody, an attorney for Goodman, said the “shifting charges were a transparent attempt by the prosecutor to intimidate Amy Goodman and to silence coverage of the resistance to the pipeline. Fortunately, these bully tactics didn’t work and freedom of the press has prevailed.”

Brody labelled the riot charge as particularly unusual. “I’ve never seen it. This case is a real outlier in general in the United States” he said, before adding that if State Attorney Ladd R Erickson “thought these charges were going to deflect media attention from the pipeline, then he really blew it.”

But even though Goodman free for now, Erickson’s office has declined to clarify whether Goodman would face other charges.

“The case against her and the other people we submitted for charges is still under review,” the state attorney said in an email to the Guardian newspaper. “Don’t know if that will mean charges or not [at] this point.”

Moreover, as I pointed out yesterday, Deia Schlosberg, the producer of the film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, was arrested in North Dakota whilst reporting on protests that shut down the tar sands. Charged with three counts of felony conspiracy, she faces a possible jail sentence of up to 45 years

Now Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, is now calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) “to act to protect the first amendment rights of those attempting to tell the stories of the water protectors fighting the risky pipeline. The DOJ must investigate the arrests of Amy Goodman and Deia Schlosberg at the hands of North Dakota police.”