Noem revising "riot boosting" laws, local organization says the laws are still unconstitutional

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) It's been three months since Governor Kristi Noem's "riot boosting" laws were shot down by a federal judge. The laws were pushed ahead of expected protests from Native American tribes surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline construction.

Once passed, the "Riot Boosting Act" immediately functioned to threaten activists who encourage or organize protests, particularly protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, with fines, civil liabilities, and/or criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison. (KEVN)

The laws led local organizations to file a lawsuit against the state of South Dakota.

Nick Tilsen is the President and CEO for NDN Collective, a national organization dedicated to building collective power of indigenous peoples.

'We won. The law was found unconstitutional. The governors office was required to pay back even our lawyers for the process.. and that's the important thing for people to understand. Parts of this law were found unconstitutional of violation of the U.S. Constitution," said Tilsen.

Noem plans to bring back revised riot-boosting laws during the next legislative session, correcting parts of the law the Supreme Court deemed a violation of free speech, and changing the definition of "incitement to riot" to meet constitutional protection.

Federal Judge Lawrence Piersol stated in his decision after blocking the riot-laws in September, "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."

"There was a couple portions of that which the Supreme Court said is unconstitutional. So we abide by what the Supreme Court said and we're just going to make it so it is constitutional and we want to have everybody's input on it so we can go good legislation that represents all the people," said Representative Tim Goodwin, (R) District 30.

Before the laws were struck down, people could face felony charges if they were involved in an act of violence in any way, even if they were not present at the scene of protest.

"That says if you hire people, bus loads of people and send them to South Dakota to protest, that's fine. But if they break the law, you are liable as well because you sent them here to intentionally break the law, and we're not going to stand for that," said Goodwin.

Safety of land was one reason for protesting, but lawmakers say the Keystone XL Pipeline does not cross through any reservations.

"There's none of the pipeline that is on tribal land. It goes only on private land, it does not cross any reservation land," said Goodwin.

But Tilsen said tribal land is affected, with the pipeline running through the Rosebud Indian Reservation located in south central South Dakota, and close to the Nebraska border.

"The truth is, that's a false statement. The entire pipeline is not 100 percent on private land. Trying every legal mechanism through wordsmithing, to try to make something that is currently a constitutional violation.. to try and make it legal," said Tilsen.

Noem said she is seeking input from legislators on the upcoming changes.

The State-Tribal Relations committee met this afternoon in Rapid City to discuss the new proposal for "riot boosting" laws. Noem did not attend the meeting, which "rankled" several lawmakers and tribal leaders, according to the South Dakota Associated Press.