Last night’s peaceful Phillips Avenue march protesting the Alito Court’s overturning of women’s freedom was no riot. That was clear to anyone watching the event, and it was clear to the Sioux Falls Police Department. Despite having shown up after the main march in riot gear to confront the folks who hung around afterward around Lyon Park, the SFPD today reiterated that the event was merely an unlawful assembly (i.e., the women dared exercise their First Amendment rights without asking Mayor TenHaken’s permission) and not a “riot”, despite the breathless post-game coverage from the local TV reporters who seemed desperate to find outbreaks of lawless chaos:
This morning during the daily police briefing, it was learned the protest had been classified as an unlawful assembly rather than a riot. Sioux Falls does have ordinances defining these things. According to the ordinance, a disorderly assembly means an assembly of two or more persons, some or all of whom are engaged in conduct which threatens the public peace or safety through fighting or violent or threatening behavior, loud language, unreasonable noise, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic or by littering or breakage. Rioting, as defined by the state of South Dakota is any intentional use of force or violence by three or more persons, acting together and without authority of law, to cause any injury to any person or any damage to property is riot [Anthony Albano, “Sioux Falls Protest: An Unlawful Assembly or a Riot?” KELO Radio, 2022.06.30].
I don’t know what East Coast TV studio celebrating author Kristi Noem is in today, but the Governor is probably disappointed to hear her loyal boys in blue not classify the protestors as rioters. If the SFPBD would just cry, “Riot!” the Governor could invoke her retread riot-boosting law (not the one that got Noem and Jason Ravnsborg whipped in court in 2019; the new one Lee Schoenbeck rewrote for her in 2020 to keep her from losing another court case), root out the ringleaders, charge them with incitement to riot, and make them pay for all those cop gas masks and overtime and general stress and strain on the police budget.
But even the hangers-around after the main march weren’t foolish enough to tickle Noem’s authoritarian trigger. Aside from maybe five named and arrested disorderlies who disregarded the word of mouth and the example of a thousand-plus people who participated in the primary, silent, peaceful protest, Wednesday’s demonstrators didn’t use force or violence. They didn’t injure people or damage property. They just made clear their expectation that South Dakota and the United States restore their freedom… the freedom that Kristi Noem celebrates in word but not deed.