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ACLU Leads Suit Against Noem/TransCanada Anti-Protest Bill!

To the barricades… er, wait—that would be riot boosting. To the barristers!

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn one of* Governor Kristi Noem’s brought-to-you-by-TransCanada protest-suppression bills!

The ACLU is bringing this lawsuit on behalf of six plaintiffs: the Sierra Club, NDN Collective, Dakota Rural Action, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Nick Tilsen with NDN Collective, and Dallas Goldtooth with Indigenous Environmental Network. The ACLU says all of these plaintiffs “are planning to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and/or encourage others to do so.”

You can read the 29-page complaint on the ACLU-SD website; you can also read the argument from ACLU’s press release right here:

“No one should have to fear the government coming after them for exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Courtney Bowie, legal director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “That is exactly what the Constitution protects against, and why we’re taking these laws to court. Whatever one’s views on the pipeline, the laws threaten the First Amendment rights of South Dakotans on every side of the issue.”

The lawsuit asserts that the laws violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution by chilling protected speech and failing to adequately describe what speech or conduct could subject protesters and organizations to criminal and civil penalties. Because the challenged laws expose the plaintiffs to immediate and irreparable harm, the plaintiffs are asking the court to immediately prohibit the state from enforcing these laws as the case goes forward.

The Riot Boosting Act, which became law this week, gives the state the authority to sue any individual or organization for “riot-boosting,” or encouraging a protest where acts of violence occur. The law mirrors two existing state laws that criminalize similar speech. Under the laws, individuals and organizations — regardless of their intent to incite violence, the likelihood that their speech or conduct would result in violence, or the imminence of the intended violence —could be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.  Moreover, the laws do not clearly describe what conduct or speech is considered “riot-boosting” or “encouraging” a riot. The ACLU argues that such vague and broad language invites arbitrary enforcement, will chill protected speech, and will result in indiscriminate targeting of peaceful organizers.

“This country has always become better when people have taken to the streets, fields, and halls of injustice,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective. “This law is so broad and vague that simply supporting people on the ground — through donations of supplies, financial assistance, or by organizing support pages on social media — could make individuals or organizations subject to criminal or civil penalties if anything deemed as ‘violence’ breaks out at the protest. It wouldn’t matter if the person or organization who made the donation was even at the protest. The state could go after them and this would make a lot of people think twice about supporting or joining a protest.”

According to the state’s website, the Riot Boosting Act is a result of discussions held with other state officials and TransCanada, the company that is set to build the oil pipeline in the coming months. Under the law, TransCanada could take the money seized from protesters and organizations found liable for “riot boosting.”

“These laws represent a blatant attempt to criminalize free speech and intimidate those who would exercise their First Amendment rights to speak out against dangerous pipeline projects in our state,” said Mark Winegar, chair of the Sierra Club South Dakota Chapter. “We are hopeful that the court will recognize this effort to undermine South Dakotans’ right to peaceful assembly and free speech for what it is and reject these dangerous laws” [American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, press release, 2019.03.28].

Rock on, ACLU, Dakota Rural Action, and other friends of the First Amendment!

Boy, less than three months in office, and Kristi Noem and Jason Ravnsborg already have two big First Amendment lawsuits to fight… kinda makes you wonder just how committed South Dakota state government is to free speech….

*Update 2019.03.29 05:15 CDT: Note that the suit challenges Senate Bill 189, the bill that fabricates this new and vague crime of “riot boosting”, but not Senate Bill 190, Noem’s new pipeline protest slush fund. The suit also challenges two long-standing statutes on inciting riots and violence, SDCL 22-10-6 and SDCL 22-10-6.1.


  1. jerry 2019-03-28

    Beautiful! Gotta love it. Here is some icing for that cake, Michael Bolton was riot boosting Marla Maples, trumps wife at the time. Pay backs are brutal when you think about them. This is gonna put our goofy Attorney General in the spotlight for us all to see. Should be entertaining while we watch him lose. Water is Life.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2019-03-28

    When someone asks me what ‘riot boosting’ is I tell them it is Kristi’s term for trying to catch George Soros or his money in her snare.

  3. grudznick 2019-03-28

    Would a convenience store owned by the CRST that sold beverages to protesters who smashed up private property and shot and ate a cow be liable for boosting a riot?

  4. jerry 2019-03-28

    Ocean temperatures have risen to new high levels. We don’t need this dirty oil!

    “The United Nations has warned that ocean heat hit a record high last year, raising urgent new worries about the threat global warming is posing to marine life.

    In its latest State of the Climate overview, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reaffirmed on Thursday that the last four years had been the hottest on record – figures previously announced in provisional drafts of the flagship report.

    But the final version of the report highlighted concerning developments in other climate indicators beyond surface temperature.”

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-03-29

    I’d love for George Soros to join this lawsuit… or maybe file his own against Noem for defamation.

    I appreciate Roger’s point about Noem trying to get some Soros money. Funny that she won’t ever consider taxing the income of the wealthy TransCanada elites rich lobbyists like her pal and string-puller Matt McCaulley, but she’ll try to overturn the First Amendment so she can dip into George Soros’s pocket.

    But as the ACLU’s lawsuit makes clear, Noem’s TransCanadian intent is to scare more shallow-pocketed protest groups and individuals like us away from speaking out against our oily corporate fascist leaders, lest the state come and bankrupt us.

    Huh—people supporting Noem like to scream, “Taxation is theft! It’s our money!” But are any of those Grover-Norquisty Kristi-ites shouting that making people pay for opposing pipelines is theft?

  6. mike from iowa 2019-03-29

    Here is the current list of Soros founded or supported entities in America from WIKI.

    Founded or helped to found
    Open Society Foundations[1]
    New America[2]
    Black Lives Matter[3]
    Best for Britain[4][5]
    European Movement UK[6]
    Scientists for EU[6][7]
    Media Matters for America[8]
    Center for Public Integrity[9]
    Human Rights Watch[10]
    Priorities USA Action[11]
    American Bridge 21st Century[11]
    America Votes[11][12]
    Millennium Promise[13]

    No ACLU to be found.

  7. jerry 2019-03-29

    By 1/1/2020 tar sand high-sulfur fuel will be a thing of the past as it will no longer be a viable profitable product to power freighters on our oceans and other maritime needs. So what is all this about then?

    “(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp expects high-sulfur fuel oil demand to fall 25 percent by 2025, as a new set of emission regulations kick in next year, a top-level official at the U.S. oil and gas company said on Monday.

    A new 0.5 percent sulfur content cap in shipping fuel set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will come into effect in 2020.”

    That’s just EXXON, the rest of the producers “The International Energy Agency has forecast high-sulfur fuel oil demand to fall 60 percent next year, while marine gasoil demand to more than double.”

    Great news for the planet and maybe, just maybe, the beheading of the black snake.

  8. Robert McTaggart 2019-03-29

    I am more open to the argument about whether enough demand is there to make a profit. However, at some point the price of oil will go up, and then there will be profit. India and China and southeast Asia have large populations that don’t drive and don’t use electricity today. Once they really get going, there will be further constraints on supply.

    The infrastructure isn’t there yet to either provide or store the power to displace gasoline with electricity. So if you want to travel, the bottom line is you will complain a lot (perhaps a great deal!), but you will still use some kind of oil in some fashion.

    The argument over the pipelines becomes moot if we can generate enough clean energy to power transportation. Until that happens, the alternative that does not use a lot of nuclear is to deliver the energy we actually use, make the pipelines safe, make vehicles more efficient, and capture the carbon in some fashion.

  9. Debbo 2019-03-29

    Is it legal for the fines, costs, etc from this unconstitutional law to go to a private business?

  10. Debbo 2019-03-29

    I know Mike. There’s no way to make any sense, Any Sense, from Lee’s stupid comment. However, Mormon men do love big families.

  11. Robert McTaggart 2019-03-29


    ~20% of a human is made of carbon….so I guess technically each new person represents a way to capture several kilograms of carbon. Each dwelling represents a place to put other amounts of carbon. Plants and trees in the yard of said dwelling also are a way to store carbon.

    But I doubt that would offset the tens of metric tons of CO2 each year we emit per person from our fuel consumption.

  12. Owen 2019-03-29

    What if the government starts the fight?

  13. Debbo 2019-03-30

    This article in the Paris Revue begins and ends with a protest in Brooklyn at the Whitney Museum that includes the DAPL protest and other cases where the wealthy and powerful are mistreating less fortunate, or less criminal, people. The umbrella organization is DTP, Decolonize This Place. The protest is there because a member of the museum’s board of trustees gets his wealth, in part, from manufacturing the tear gas lobbed at families at the southern border and from various police tactical gear. Protesters left the museum because the sage they were burning was against fire code.

    The Whitney is an art museum and most of the protesters were artists. They have other grievances against art museums that are described in the article. “Art” encompasses an incredibly wide range. Some say that art is whatever the artist says it is.

    Protesters were surmising that what they were doing was actually performance art. Marching, gathering, chanting, burning sage, displaying posters. Hmmm. It could be.

    Has a court had to define art over protest? Do I smell a large loophole?

    The Artist-Activists Decolonizing the Whitney Museum

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