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Charges Against Reporter at Pipeline Protest Dropped

MANDAN, N.D. (CN) — A state judge dismissed criminal trespass and riot charges against Democracy Now reporter Amy Goodman for her work covering the ongoing protest against pipeline construction in North Dakota.

The charges stem from Goodman's presence at the protest site on Sept. 3, where she filmed Dakota Access pipeline security officers pepper-spraying protesters.

Major media outlets, including CNN, NPR and CBS, picked up the video, and Democracy Now estimates it has been viewed at least 14 million times.

North Dakota State's Attorney Ladd Erickson charged Goodman with criminal trespass on Sept. 8. Erickson later withdrew that charge and replaced it with a charge of engaging in a riot.

North Dakota district Judge John Grinsteiner of Morton County refused to find probable cause for the charge and dismissed the case Monday.

"This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public's right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline," Goodman said on the Democracy Now website Monday. "We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet."

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Mandan, N.D., cheered Goodman's attorney, Thomas Dickson, as he announced the dismissal of charges.

Shouts of, "We love you, sister," and "Thank you, Amy!" can be heard on a video of the announcement on the Democracy Now website.

"When the prosecutor misguidedly decided to file charges against Amy Goodman, he decided to go after the wrong person," a second attorney, Reed Brody, said. "Amy Goodman is not intimidated."

"The state's attorney was attempting to stop journalism," Goodman added. "The state's attorney must respect freedom of the press and the First Amendment."

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota has spearheaded ongoing protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, which began construction in the state over the summer.

Since then, the protesters' "spirit camps" have swelled to thousands of members, drawing protesters from over 200 different Native tribes across the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

The protesters claim the pipeline will pollute drinking water and destroy significant cultural sites.

In early September, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled in the District of Columbia that Dakota Access could continue work on the pipeline despite tribal protests, and an appeals court upheld the ruling earlier this month.

However, the Department of Justice has barred construction of the pipeline within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe, a major source of drinking water for the state's residents, pending further investigation.

According to Goodman, over 140 people have been arrested in connection with the protests.

The Green Party's presidential candidate, Jill Stein, was charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief for allegedly spray-painting pipeline construction equipment in September. And actor Shaileen Woodley, best known for her role in the "Divergent" movies, was charged with criminal trespass and engaging in a riot for participating in the protests.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is set to run a 1,172-mile route from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa on the way.

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