The South Dakota ACLU and lawyers for several elected officials will argue motions this week at the federal court in Rapid City after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against a pipeline protest bill.
Judge Lawrence Piersol wrote in an order last week that he wants to hear in-person arguments about the motions at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 189, which was signed by Gov. Kristi Noem earlier this year after it was introduced late in the legislative session, establishes a legal avenue and funding source for the state to pursue out-of-state sources that "riot boost" or fund violent protests. Those found guilty of breaking the law can be sent to prison for up to 25 years.
The ACLU sued Noem, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, saying SB 189 along with two older riot-related statutes violate the First and Fourteenth amendments by discouraging free speech and being unclear about what exact actions are considered boosting or encouraging a riot. Lawyers for Noem and Ravnsborg say the laws don't threaten free speech because they only apply to violent actions.
Piersol will consider three motions filed by the defendants. All three defendants have asked Piersol to make a ruling on the lawsuit, or if the three laws need to be interpreted, to transfer the case to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Thom has also asked Piersol to drop him from the lawsuit, arguing that he can't be sued over state laws he is required to enforce.
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The ACLU told the Journal it sued Thom since it expects protests to take place near Rapid City and argued in court documents that Thom can be sued since he must interpret how to enforce the laws.
The ACLU is representing the Sierra Club, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Dakota Rural Action, a South Dakota group that organizes on behalf of family ranchers and farmers, and NDN Collective, a nationwide indigenous group that challenges resource extraction. Nick Tilsen, a Rapid City resident who founded NDN Collective and Dallas Goldtooth, who heads IEN's Keep It In the Ground campaign against fossil fuels, are also named as plaintiffs.
All of the organizations and activists plan to non-violently protest the pipeline and/or encourage others to do so, the ACLU has said.
Pipeline construction is still on hold as TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) works on permitting and battles lawsuits. If it is approved, it is expected to pass through Pennington, Meade, Butte, Perkins, Hardy, Haakon, Jones and Tripp counties.