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ACLU of North Dakota Statement on First Amendment Violations at Dakota Access Pipeline Protest
Cannon Ball, N.D., August 22, 2016 – The curbing of peaceful protests at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction is in violation of our core principles of free speech.
Jennifer Cook, policy director of the ACLU of North Dakota has released the following statement on the government action regarding ongoing demonstrations at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction in Cannon Ball, ND.
“The right to protest is fundamental to our democracy and the interference with that right by agents of the counties and the state of North Dakota violates both the spirit and letter of the First Amendment. As the courts in this state have recognized, the First Amendment forbids the enactment of laws ‘abridging the freedom of speech ... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.’ The protest at the Dakota Access pipeline is precisely the type of assembly protected by the First Amendment. Peaceful protest is at the core of the First Amendment and restrictions to such activity, such as the closing of highways with the effect of preventing assembly or effective messaging of protesters, should be viewed skeptically. Law enforcement agents have a duty to ensure that the rights of protesters are protected, not just the rights of corporations. While law enforcement officers have a right to ensure the safety of all of our citizens, this goal should be achieved by ensuring that all citizens, including protesters, are protected and that there are enough police in place to prevent violence, but not prevent peaceful protest or assembly.
The ACLU of North Dakota supports peaceful protests and encourages protesters to know their rights. Anyone who believes their First Amendment rights have been violated should contact us at http://www.aclund.org/get-help.”