NewsU.S. and the World


Federal judge blocks South Dakota's Keystone XL “riot boosting” laws

Posted at 4:00 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 18:00:49-04

RAPID CITY, S.D. - A federal judge has blocked parts of the so-called “Riot-Boosting” Act that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed in March.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol filed the temporary injunction on Wednesday.

Most of the law is blocked, except for parts related to violence and force, reports KELO .

Piersol spends several paragraphs with a scenario applying these laws during the protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He pulled out several quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Imagine that if these riot boosting statutes were applied to the protests that took place in Birmingham, Alabama, what might be the result? … Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference could have been liable under an identical riot boosting law,” Piersol wrote.

Piersol focused much of his order on the First Amendment.

“Is one goal to keep outsiders out? If so, that is not a laudable goal as we are a nation of 50 states with each citizen in any state having the same rights of free speech and assembly in every state,” Piersol wrote. “However, no one has the right to start or participate in a riot.”

Stephen Pevar is a senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. He said the laws were intended to suppress constitutionally-protected, peaceful protests of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We’re glad the court recognized that these vague and overbroad laws threaten the First Amendment rights of South Dakotans on every side of the issue,” Pevar said in a statement.

“This legislation is important to make sure we’re protecting communities and people while the build is going on, I’m all for first amendment rights and free speech, just want to make sure we have peace and protection,” Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said in June when the lawsuit was filed.


KELOLAND News has reached out to Noem’s office.

“The governor and her team are reviewing the ruling. Since the matter remains in litigation, she won’t be making further public comments on the matter at this time,” a spokesperson told KELOLAND News.

The laws were intended to protect state and local governments and third parties for law enforcement and similar costs, including if peaceful protests against Keystone XL turned into riots.

SB 189 created a mechanism to collect triple damages from any person convicted of riot boosting. SB 190 established a fund to reimburse state and local governments for their costs on pipeline projects, with each project paying a $1 million bond for every 10 miles, up to $20 million.

Piersol wrote in his decision that the need to move quickly on this injunction is important because planning and getting public support for protests would need to happen now and before the next construction season.

“If public opinion is to be swayed, it should be done before further construction takes place,” Piersol wrote. “Those in favor of the pipeline should also have opportunity to respond rather than having all confrontation taking place during actual construction.