Freedom of press questioned over Dakota pipeline

Columnist Travis Adams

Columnist Travis Adams

The 1,100-mile-long, $3.8 billion pipeline that’smaking national headlines plans to carry almost 500,000 barrels of crude oil from the fracking oil fields of North Dakota, to Illinois and then proceed onward to the Missouri River, and into the Gulf of Mexico.
In direct protest against the plan to build this pipeline, thousands of people have flocked to resistance camps where the Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri River. If anything were to happen to the pipeline, millions of people downstream would lose access to their freshwater supply.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, are among a reported one hundred or more tribes spanning from the upper midwest andCanada for the past six months who have taken a stand against this pipeline being built.
More than 140 people have been arrested, and there are no notable signs that number will begin to plateau.
Just this past week, Democracy Now!, one of the largest public media organizations in the United States captured footage of pipeline guards unleashing pepper spray and attack dogs on Native American and non-native pipeline protesters standing to defend the land and the water.
The piece of footage went viral overnight, attracting more than 14 million views on Facebook alone, along with being rebroadcasted on many mainstream news outlets.
What happens next is nothing short of head scratching. Democracy Now!’s lead anchor Amy Goodman was charged with criminal trespassing for Democracy Now!’s reporting of the Dakota Access Pipeline company’s violent attack.  
These protestors were exercising their right to assemble, doing everything in their power to prevent the destruction of sacred sites, including ancestral burial grounds just a few miles north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Five days later, North Dakota issued the arrest warrant. The head prosecutor, Ladd Erickson, had dropped the trespassing charge, but proceeded to file an even more ridiculous charge than the first: rioting.
When asked to explain the reasoning for arresting a working journalist, Erickson told the Grand Forks Herald that he didn’t consider Goodman a journalist. “She’s a protester, basically,” said Erickson, “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”
He later added, “I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of her state.”
Judge John Grinsteiner refused to sign off on the riot charge. The case was dismissed.
The fact the prosecuter is attempting to surpress freedom of the press is alarming.
It’s a total embarrassment to the state of North Dakota that it has willingly proceeded to try and get this woman thrown into jail for simply reporting.
Is it too much to ask forindigenous people to not be disregarded by corporate America? Perhaps that’s to idealistic for this nation to even consider.
Journalism and the freedom of the press lives to see another day with the North Dakota judge dismissing the criminal charge against Goodman on Oct.17.
Now this shameful event that was orchestrated by Erickson can be cast aside and the substantive issue at hand can now be brought into focus: the reality that this pipeline can cause millions of people to be harmed. It would further the destruction of native culture, and heritage as well as speed up the process of mankind effectively destroying our planet.

Photo from flickr.com