Sept. 18 (UPI) -- A federal court blocked a series of laws in South Dakota that would impose penalties, including fines and jail time, on protesters.
The ruling by the U.S. District Court of South Dakota blocked a series of laws signed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, including the so-called "Riot Boosting" Act, which would impose fines, civil liabilities and/or criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison on people encouraging or organizing protests.
District Judge Lawrence Piersol granted the preliminary injunction, questioning how such laws could have affected protests during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
"Imagine that if these riot boosting statutes were applied to the protests that took place in Birmingham, Ala., what might be the result?" Piersol wrote. "Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference could have been liable under an identical riot boosting law."
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of South Dakota filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club, NDN Collective, Dakota Rural Action and the Indigenous Environmental Network as well as two individuals Nick Tilsen and Dallas Goldtooth, who were planning to protest the Keystone XL pipeline or encouraging others to do so.
"As Dakota, it is our duty to protect the land and water and speaking up on behalf of these sacred elements is essential to that endeavor," Goldtooth said. "This decision is a good step in protecting our right to organize, educate and promote a sustainable future for all generations of life."
The laws were passed in March, with proponents saying the bills were necessary to help the state address fees from unlawful assembly and was meant to target out-of-state agitators from participating and encouraging demonstrations.