Goodman photo courtesy of Democracy Now.
Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman went to the Morton County Jail in Mandan, North Dakota today to turn herself in. After her eye-opening coverage of protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project on September 3, Goodman received an arrest warrant and was charged with “trespassing.”
On October 14, the State’s Attorney Ladd R. Erickson announced that he would instead seek a charge of “rioting” against Goodman. Goodman hosted her nationally-syndicated radio and television program Democracy Now! live from in front of the Morton County Memorial Courthouse on Monday morning, October 17th. Shortly after midday, it was announced that District Judge John Grinsteiner did not find probable cause to justify the charges filed on Friday October 14 by the State’s Attorney. As a result Goodman was free to leave.
“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,” said Goodman in a press release on the Democracy Now! website.
In this excerpt from an interview in the forthcoming November issue of The Progressive magazine, Amy Goodman talks about the protests, Democracy Now’s coverage, and the warrant for her arrest for “the crime of journalism”:
NS: You were at Standing Rock in September covering the protests. What, as you see it, is going on there?
Amy Goodman: This is fundamentally a story about the state of the planet, about climate change, about indigenous rights, about corporate and state power. It is about Native Americans in North Dakota who have taken a stand against a $3.5 billion pipeline that would go from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, just six miles short of the Keystone XL.
Beginning on April 1, the first resistance camp was set up, the Sacred Stone Camp. Now there are four camps, perhaps more. Thousands of Native Americans from Canada, the United States, and even Latin America have gathered to fight to really preserve the planet. To challenge the fossil fuel economy and the destruction of their sacred sites and burial grounds. This is a story that we have seen played out in different places, and right now it is happening in North Dakota. And Native Americans are in the leadership.
NS: When you were at the Standing Rock Reservation in early September, you viewed the repression that was being used against these peaceful protestors. Can you describe that for us?
Amy Goodman: Well, it was Labor Day weekend, September 3, and Native Americans had come up to one of the sites where the pipeline company was excavating for the pipeline. They didn’t expect the company to be working on the Labor Day weekend. They came to plant their tribal flags, but when they got there the bulldozers were in full gear. Word went out and more Native Americans and their allies came. They were demanding that the bulldozers stop destroying their sacred sites, their burial grounds.
As they moved up to the bulldozers, the bulldozers started to move back. But not before security guards on the site attacked Native Americans, tackled them, punched them, and unleashed dogs as well as pepper spray. Dogs, a reminder of Alabama in 1963. They unleashed dogs that bit the Native Americans, that bit their horses. It was terrifying.
As Democracy Now! was filming, we saw one of the dogs with its mouth and nose dripping with blood. The security guards would not stop. They were even pushing the dogs into the Native Americans. We videoed all of this, the pepper spraying of the Native Americans as well. But the Native Americans did manage to force the bulldozers back.
We released a video a few hours later and within days on Facebook there were thirteen million views (and by now far many more), showing the dogs biting the Native Americans. The sheriff and the security company told a very different story. But the video showed what actually took place that day.
NS: What was the upshot?
Amy Goodman: The tribe went to court on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend demanding a temporary injunction to keep the pipeline company from destroying their burial grounds. On Tuesday, the judge ruled against that temporary injunction but said his full decision was coming out on Friday. On Thursday after Labor Day weekend, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple called out the National Guard. And on that same day, North Dakota issued an arrest warrant for me, charging me with criminal trespass.
It is very clear that the actual crime the state of North Dakota was charging me with was “journalism.” The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent, in a sworn affidavit, actually said “Amy Goodman can be seen in the video identifying herself and interviewing protesters about their involvement in the protest.” That’s what the criminal complaint alleges and the affidavit was attached to that.
That’s precisely what I was doing: the constitutionally protected work of a reporter. And it is unacceptable that the state should interfere with the First Amendment, with freedom of the press—because freedom of the press is about the public’s right to know. In order for the public to make decisions, people need accurate information. That is what we were providing, and that is why we will fight these charges.
NS: You talk about the protests bringing together Native tribes from across the continent. It is also bringing together other activists, including from the Black Lives Matter movement. Why do you think this issue is galvanizing people?
Amy Goodman: What we are seeing right now, and what we are trying to document, is this remarkable convergence of movements. We’re talking about the largest unification of tribes in decades. We’re talking about this gathering of people who call themselves “protectors,” not protesters. In fact, the mantra of the Native Americans is “Water is Life” and they see themselves protecting the Missouri River, under which the pipeline would have to go—the Missouri River whose water more than ten million people depend on.
This struggle for sacred land and keeping water clean is certainly something that the black community in this country knows well. Look, for example, at Flint, Michigan, whose water was contaminated by the decision of the Republican Governor of Michigan and his representatives to disconnect Flint from its traditional water supply. So I think the Black Lives Matter movement very much identifies with what’s happening in North Dakota right now.
The full version of this interview will appear in the November 2016 print edition of The Progressive. To subscribe to the print or digital edition of the magazine, click here.
Norman Stockwell is publisher of The Progressive.