S.D. Senate Advances Protest Restriction Bill

PIERRE, S.D. – A South Dakota senate panel voted 6-3 to advance a bill that would give the government expanded authority to curtail protest activities in the state.

SB 176, introduced by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, would expand the state’s powers in “emergencies,” which could include protests, and give it the authority to declare “public safety zones” in which protest activities could be limited or forbidden.

The bill also imposes harsher penalties for trespassing.

Daugaard introduced the bill as a direct response to the massive Dakota Access Pipeline protests that raged for months over the state’s northern border in North Dakota, and in anticipation of construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the state.

“Governor Daugaard wants to learn from North Dakota’s experience to be prepared,” Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s chief of staff, said in an email.

Although Native American tribes, led by the Standing Rock Sioux, were at the forefront of the North Dakota protests, Daugaard insists that this new law is not directed at any race, but at “aggressive activists who threaten other people.”

But the state’s tribes see the issue differently. The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is considering closing its reservation borders if the law passes, while the Cheyenne River Sioux have threatened to sue the state.

If the law passes, it would remain in effect until 2020.