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2017-03-16 / Headlines

Daugaard Signs Anti-Protest Bill: Pens Letter To Tribal Leaders

By Brandon Ecoffey
LCT editor


Despite fierce opposition from tribal leaders, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed off on a law that many fear will be used to target water protectors and their allies. (AP Photo/James Nord, File) Despite fierce opposition from tribal leaders, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed off on a law that many fear will be used to target water protectors and their allies. (AP Photo/James Nord, File) PIERRE- Despite fierce opposition from tribal leaders, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed off on a law that many fear will be used to target water protectors and their allies.

“My administration brought this bill to protect those who want to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights, as well as the people who reside in and travel through our state,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Legislators on both sides of the aisle voted to support this bill and I appreciate their recognition of the urgency of this issue,” said Daugaard in a release.

The bill imposes new penalties for standing in the highway to stop traffic or trespassing in posted emergency areas. The state would be allowed to create these emergency areas that if entered without permission would result in jail time. It also allows the commissioner of school and public lands, at the request of the governor and local sheriff, to block groups larger than 20 people from gathering on designated lands.

There was fierce opposition from the bill from state legislators including Kevin Killer, Troy Heinert, Shawn Bordeaux and others. Tribal leaders from across the state voiced their concerns over the bill that was inspired by the actions of water protectors in North Dakota who opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now, with the Keystone XL pipeline possible on the horizon state legislatures are preemptively passing legislation that limits the ability of tribal-citizens and others to assemble and protest the project.

In a letter sent to the state’s tribal presidents, Daugaard asked for cooperation from them despite his unwillingness to entertain their input prior to signing the bill into law,

“On January 26, 2017, TransCanada announced that it had submitted a Presidential Permit application to the U.S. Department of State for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. I understand that the pipeline is a matter of grave concern to our tribal citizens. I further understand it is very likely that people from across the country will come to South Dakota to join our tribal members in exercising their right to communicate their concerns, and the belief, that the pipeline is a threat to the welfare of tribes,” wrote Daugaard.

Daugaard would go on to state that he hoped that attempts “to stop the construction of the pipeline would be made through the legal system and the lawful exercise of free speech, and not by other means.”

Daugaard also invited tribal leaders to a series of roundtable discussion on the law.

Tribal leaders have threatened to withdraw from some agreements with the state in response to the new measure.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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