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Judge Thwarts Trumpian Attack on Freedom of the Press

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Needless to say, this is appalling. Amy Goodman filmed pipeline company goons attacking protestors, and was brought up on charges for her efforts:

Goodman’s report created a rare crack in the consensus of silence. And, as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi writes, the outrage it generated may well have influenced the Obama administration’s decision to halt work on the pipeline several days later. This was journalism that mattered.

Yet, on September 8, Goodman received the news that Morton County, North Dakota, had issued a warrant for her arrest. The charge: riot, a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine.

It should be noted that this was not the original charge leveled against Goodman; initially, she was tagged with criminal trespassing, also a misdemeanor. But in what would seem to be a clear sign of charge-shopping, the prosecutor, Ladd Erickson, switched up the crimes she had allegedly committed just days before she was set to appear in court, because, he admitted in an e-mail to Goodman’s lawyer, there were “legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute.”

When asked to explain the grounds for arresting a working journalist, Erickson told the Grand Forks Herald that he did not, in fact, consider Goodman a journalist. “She’s a protester, basically,” Erickson told the newspaper. “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.” And in The Bismarck Tribune he later added, “I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of her state.”

It’s worth pausing here for a moment to contemplate the full and chilling absurdity of this statement: According to Erickson, a woman who appeared at a protest carrying a microphone emblazoned with the name Democracy Now! and trailing a video crew; who can be heard in the resulting video report identifying herself to a security guard as a reporter; and who then broadcast the video on the daily news program she has hosted for 20 years is not actually a journalist. She is not a journalist, because she harbors a strong perspective, and that perspective clashes with his own. By the same distorted logic, every muckraking news gatherer from Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair on through I.F. Stone, and, yes, today’s Matt Taibbi (whose work Erickson apparently admires) was not a journalist but an activist flirting with arrest.

Fortunately, for once the story has a happy ending:

A judge has refused to sign off on proposed riot charges against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. In September, Goodman and her crew filmed an ongoing protest by thousands of American Indian activists against a planned North Dakota pipeline. A prosecutor first charged Goodman with criminal trespass, then attempted to upgrade the charges to participating in a riot.

Goodman went back to North Dakota Monday to appear in court; shortly before she was due there, a Democracy Now! producer reported that Judge John Grinsteiner had rejected the riot charge.

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