Author Archives: Red Power Media, Staff

South Dakota Governor Caves on Attempted Efforts to Silence Pipeline Protesters

Photo: Rob Wilson

South Dakota’s governor and attorney general today backed down from their unconstitutional attempts to silence pipeline protestors. In response to a lawsuit we filed alongside the ACLU of South Dakota and the Robins Kaplan law firm, the state has agreed to never enforce the unconstitutional provisions of several state laws that threatened activists who encourage or organize protests, particularly protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, with fines and criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison.

The settlement agreement reached today and now headed to the court for approval is an important victory for the right to protest. It comes soon after a federal court temporarily blocked enforcement of the pieces of the laws that infringed on First Amendment protected speech, and makes the court’s temporary block a permanent one.

The laws include the “Riot Boosting” Act, which gave the state the authority to sue individuals and organizations for “riot boosting,” a novel and confusing term. The court warned against the laws’ broad reach, noting that the laws could have prohibited:

  • Sending a supporting email or a letter to the editor in support of a protest
  • Giving a cup of coffee or thumbs up or $10 to protesters
  • Holding up a sign in protest on a street corner
  • Asking someone to protest
  • Under the First Amendment, that is impermissible.

The court rightly recognized the stakes of this case. And it put these anti-protest efforts in perspective, asking “if these riot boosting statutes were applied to the protests that took place in Birmingham, Alabama, what might be the result?” The answer: “Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference could have been liable under an identical riot boosting law[.]”

Indeed, South Dakota’s unconstitutional anti-protest efforts echoed the suppression of past social movements. From the start, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called on “shut[ting] down” “out-of-state people” who come into South Dakota to “slow and stop construction” of the pipeline. Her harmful calls were reminiscent of government attempts throughout our history to delegitimize and minimize significant social movements as the work of “outside agitators,” including Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

South Dakota’s quick and costly retreat (they’ll have to compensate plaintiffs for attorney’s fees under the settlement agreement) should serve as a lesson for other legislatures considering similar efforts to silence dissent.

In the last few years, we have witnessed a legislative trend of states seeking to criminalize protest, deter political participation, and curtail freedom of association. These bills appear to be a direct reaction from politicians and corporations to some of the most effective tactics of those speaking out today, including water protectors challenging pipeline construction, Black Lives Matter, and those calling for boycotts of Israel. These legislative moves are aimed at suppressing dissent and undercutting marginalized and over-policed groups voicing concerns that disrupt current power dynamics.

But the First Amendment guarantees people the right to voice their opposition. This includes our clients — four organizations (the Sierra Club, NDN Collective, Dakota Rural Action, and the Indigenous Environmental Network) and two individuals (Nick Tilsen with NDN Collective and Dallas Goldtooth with Indigenous Environmental Network) — all of whom are protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and encouraging others to do the same.

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline may be imminent. Pre-construction activities resumed this month, and a hearing on the new Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline, which will serve as the basis for approval of any future permits, is coming up next Monday.

With the laws we challenged proclaimed unenforceable, protesters and protectors no longer have to worry about incarceration or fines as they protest against the construction. That is, at a minimum, how democracy should work.

[SOURCE]

Photo credit: Rob Wilson

‘This is oil country’: Newly painted Greta Thunberg mural gets defaced, covered in slurs

An Edmonton man defaced a newly painted mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Sunday morning. ( Andreane Williams/CBC)

The artist says nothing lasts forever

A newly painted portrait of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was quickly defaced — first with a pro-oil message, and later with a slur against the teen.

The mural was painted on a section of a downtown “free wall” along a bike path that runs parallel to 109 Street near the Alberta Legislature. Local artist AJA Louden has confirmed he painted Thunberg Friday.

A CBC journalist was shooting footage of the mural on Sunday morning when James Bagnell walked up with spray paint and began painting “Stop the Lies. This is Oil Country!!!” over the teen’s face.

“This is Alberta. This is oil country. My father has worked in the oil industry. We don’t need foreigners coming in and telling us how to run our business, support our families, put food on our tables,” he said.

Bagnell said as soon as he saw photos of the mural on social media, he decided to go down and “deal with it.” He said his father, who recently died, would have been “disgusted” to see the portrait of Thunberg.

He said Canada shouldn’t change its energy industry because other countries are worse offenders.

James Bagnell paints a pro-oil message over a downtown Edmonton portrait of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. (Gabrielle Brown/CBC)

“I think it’s absolutely intolerant of them to tell us how to change our lives and our people. She should go back to her country and try to make her country better.”

He said Thunberg is a child who is “doing what she’s told,” and doesn’t know better. He said he’s not against becoming more eco-friendly, but said Thunberg offers no solutions.

“Just shut up until you have solutions,” he said.

Later, when CBC returned to shoot more footage, a different man was further defacing the mural — this time calling the teen a derogatory term, and telling her to get out of the country. The man declined to be interviewed.

A newly painted mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was further defaced on Sunday morning. CBC has blurred a derogatory term that later appeared on the mural. (Andreane Williams/CBC)

‘Not a big deal at all’

Reached by email Sunday after the initial pro-oil message was painted, Louden said it’s normal for artists to paint over each other’s work as it’s a free wall.

“Nothing lasts forever — one of my favourite things about that wall is that anyone is allowed to express themselves there, so I’m not upset at all. I haven’t seen what went over it, but if anyone is upset about what was painted over the portrait, they can just paint back over it, it’s not a big deal at all,” Louden wrote.

Mary Bjorgum, a passerby who watched the artwork go up on the wall, was also not surprised, but disappointed, she said.

“Incredibly disappointed because it was a beautiful piece of artwork, time and effort went into making it,” Bjorgum said. “I appreciate that they want to express there but to actually deface it is quite another thing.”

Thunberg was in Edmonton Friday to attend a climate march and rally at the Alberta Legislature that was attended by thousands of people. Her visit attracted a smaller, counter protest presence.

Thunberg then travelled to Fort McMurray, where she met with leaders of the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, as well as to participate in a BBC documentary about the region.

CBC News · Posted: Oct 20, 2019

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Release report into RCMP conduct during Rexton protests, says anti-shale gas group

Vehicles were burned at the scene of a shale gas protest in Rexton six years. Anti-shale activists want the report into RCMP conduct during the violent clashes made public. (Courtesy of Gilles Boudreau)

RCMP vehicles burned, dozens arrested in October 2013 protests in Kent County

Anti-shale gas activists are calling for the release of an independent investigation into RCMP action during violent protests in Rexton six years ago.

Dozens were arrested during months of protests near Elsipogtog First Nation that saw a blockade erected on Route 134 to stop gas exploration in the area.

In October 2013, RCMP officers used force to disperse protesters and six RCMP vehicles were burned during the clashes.

The independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission investigated complaints about police conduct during the protests. Commissioners held public meetings in the Kent County area in 2015.

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance says it has heard nothing from the commission since that time, and it’s tired of waiting. It’s calling on RCMP and government officials to release the commission’s findings.

Alliance spokesperson Denise Melanson says it’s important to know the truth.

Denise Melanson, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, said the group is becoming impatient and wants to see the report. (Radio-Canada)

“What happened was so anti-democratic and, you know, when governments use force and the secret state to impose things on the public, we’re not talking about a democracy anymore,” Melanson said.

“This is really, really important. And it’s not just that I need to prove that I was right about what happened. It’s more that we really need to know that our government isn’t behaving like this.”

Report delivered to RCMP

In an email, a spokesperson for the commission confirmed the Rexton riot report was delivered to the RCMP last March.

When the RCMP commissioner’s office reacts, the commission will prepare its final report, the spokesperson said.

The report contains testimony from 130 witnesses, 50,000 records and thousands of video files.

The evidence gathered is voluminous: 130 civilian witnesses were heard, 50,000 records and thousands of video files collected, which may explain why the investigation lasted so long.

The Council of Canadians is circulating a petition to ask Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to release the report.

CBC News also contacted Public Safety Canada. The department referred the query back to the complaints commission.

With files from Radio-Canada

CBC News · Posted: Sep 18, 2019 

[SOURCE]

 

Minnesota court rejects challenges to Enbridge Line 3 pipeline approval

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – The Minnesota Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to hear environmental and tribal challenges to Enbridge Inc’s Line 3 oil pipeline, a decision that removes one potential obstacle for the already-delayed project.

The ruling means the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), the state regulator that approved the Line 3 project last year, will not have to consider additional environmental issues.

Line 3 is part of Enbridge’s Mainline network that transports western Canadian oil to Midwest refineries. The replacement project would double capacity to 760,000 barrels per day, providing much-needed relief from congestion on existing Canadian pipelines.

Pipelines carrying Canadian oil have fallen short for years of meeting demand because of delays with Line 3, the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain and TC Energy Corp’s Keystone XL.

Line 3 was meant to be in service by the end of this year but has been delayed until the second half of 2020 because of issues with permitting.

“We agree with this decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court which now allows the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to move forth with the permitting process for the Line 3 replacement,” said Guy Jarvis, Enbridge’s executive vice president of liquids pipelines. “We look forward to the MPUC providing their guidance on the remaining process and schedule.”

The American Petroleum Institute also welcomed the court’s decision. Erin Roth, executive director of API Minnesota, said Line 3 was the “most studied pipeline project in state history.”

In June, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Public Utilities Commission had failed to address how an oil spill from the line would affect Lake Superior within the project’s environmental impact statement.

Groups including Honor the Earth and the Mille Lac Band of Ojibwe that oppose replacement of Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, petitioned for the state Supreme Court to review other aspects of the impact statement that the appeals court approved. Those petitions were denied on Tuesday.

“We are profoundly disappointed that the Minnesota Supreme Court felt more interested in siding with the rights of a Canadian corporation to proceed with a high-risk project than protecting the rights of the Minnesota Anishinabe and indigenous people and the rights of nature,” Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said.

Calgary-based Enbridge’s shares closed up 0.15% on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$46.70.

(Reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)

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First Nations given maximum compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

OTTAWA — The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has awarded more than $2 billion in compensation to First Nations children and their families who were separated by a chronically underfunded welfare system.

In a ruling this morning the tribunal says the federal government “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated against Indigenous children living on reserves by not properly funding child and family services.

The result was a mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents for years in a system Indigenous leaders say had more First Nations kids living in foster care than at the height of the residential-schools era.

The tribunal is awarding the maximum damages it can — $40,000 — for each child taken away for lack of proper services or who was later returned to his or family, for each parent or grandparent who had a child taken, for each child who experienced abuse in foster care, and for each child who was taken into foster care because proper medical supports were not made available to their families.

The Assembly of First Nations says as many as 54,000 children could be eligible for the compensation.

The decision comes more than three-and-a-half years after the tribunal ruled there was clear discrimination by the federal government, which did not provide anywhere near the funding non-Indigenous children received for child welfare services.

The Canadian Press

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