I’ve started a petition to the State of North Dakota that I would imagine and hope just about everyone would want to sign.
Here’s the whole text of the petition:
Drop the illogical and illegal charge of “rioting” that you have brought against Amy Goodman for her commission of an act of journalism. Similarly, drop the felony charges you have brought against documentary film maker Deia Schlosberg who filmed activists shutting down pipelines.
Amy Goodman filmed and reported on violent attacks on protesters of the construction of a new pipeline in North Dakota. The state of North Dakota, in its infinite wisdom, tried to figure out a crime to charge her with. Espionage would have been a tough sell, although Goodman had committed the same offense as Julian Assange or James Risen, namely journalism. Trespassing was originally the offense settled upon. When it became clear, however, that that couldn’t stick, North Dakota’s genius prosecutors simply switched the charge to rioting. After all, what is rioting if not filming and reporting on violence?
Well, Dictionary.com says rioting is “a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes.” But Amy Goodman is not three or more persons. She didn’t disrupt anybody or do anything in a tumultuous manner. And she was carrying out a public service. In fact it was the one public service protected by the U.S. Constitution (or theoretically protected thereby). The First Amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press.”
That’s supposed to apply to North Dakota as well. But the First Amendment only means anything if it is protected when threatened. That’s why I’d like everyone who thinks journalists who do their jobs in North Dakota should stay out of prison should sign this petition.
Also in North Dakota (as well as in Minnesota and Montana and Washington) five activists recently used emergency shut-off switches to shut down five active fossil fuel pipelines. They notified the pipeline owners, shut the pipelines down in remote locations, and then waited lengthy amounts of time for the police to arrive and arrest them. They believed that in fact the destruction of the earth’s climate constitutes an emergency. They also asked journalists to document their actions.
The activists expected to face criminal prosecution and in fact are facing the possibility of years in prison. Two of them discuss their actions on my radio show this week. Obviously by interviewing them on my show I am not committing any crime. Obviously any listener is free to conclude that they acted morally or immorally, free to remain undecided, free to seek out additional sources of information, free to create their own podcast explaining why I’m a fool, etc.
But in North Dakota, Deia Schlosberg, who simply filmed what happened, was “held for 48 hours before being allowed to speak to a lawyer. The authorities confiscated her footage. She is now charged with three counts of felony conspiracy and faces a possible sentence of up to 45 years.”
If you can’t recognize why this is a dangerous development, let me add an additional concern. If this sort of violation of freedom of the press were learned of in a nation targeted by the Pentagon for overthrow, it would be used by the U.S. media to justify a bombing campaign. With the rapid militarization of domestic police, what if the Pentagon were to forget that it isn’t supposed to bomb North Dakota?
Perhaps that’s a bit unlikely, but let’s not take any chances.