Native Sun News Today: Water protectors take Dakota Access fight to D.C.

A "Water Is Life" teepee stands near the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., for the Native Nations Rise event. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Water protestors head to Washington
Join Native Nations march on Capitol
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

MANDAN, N.D. –– With throngs of self-proclaimed water protectors headed to a March 10 rally in Washington, D.C., for indigenous rights and an immediate halt to Dakota Access Pipeline construction across the Missouri River, professional journalist associations received an answer to their plea to drop court claims against colleagues covering the resistance here on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

“The Native Nations Rise March on Washington is proof that the Standing Rock movement is bigger than one tribe. It has evolved into a powerful global phenomenon highlighting the necessity to respect indigenous nations and their right to protect their homelands, environment and future generations,” the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said March 3.

Meanwhile the North Dakota court system was busy processing charges the state brought against more than 700 people, including journalists, arrested since August 2016 in relation to Morton County pilgrimages, prayer vigils, and civil disobedience actions supporting the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes’ federal claims against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permitting the pipeline construction in 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

“We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, along with the organizations listed below, write to request that the Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office drop the charges against journalists arrested during protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline or justify the arrests of reporters in the course of their work,” said a March 2 letter signed by: Carlos Lauría, program director and senior program coordinator for the Americas of the Committee to Protect Journalists; Bobby Magill, president of the Society of Environmental Journalists; Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Bryan Pollard, president of the Native American Journalists Association; Delphine Halgand, North America director for Reporters Without Borders; Lynn Walsh, national president of the Society of Professional Journalists; Melissa Lyttle, president of the National Press Photographers Association; and Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

“We are concerned that the arrests of journalists can have a chilling effect on press freedom and discourage media from covering stories that are in the public interest. In the case of Standing Rock, several journalists told CPJ they have shied away from covering protests or getting too close to police action to avoid being arrested again,” the letter said.

“While we acknowledge that journalists are sometimes temporarily detained in emergency situations, a case where several journalists face criminal charges for simply doing their job is unacceptable,” it said. The Committee to Protect Journalists documented at least 10 colleagues facing charges in relation to the seven-month standoff between water protectors and law enforcement.

Specifically named in the letter were Christopher Schiano and Niko Georgiades, members of the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot, which steadfastly covered the resistance from the beginning April 1, 2016, through the North Dakota governor’s militarized police evacuation of spirit camps Feb. 23.

The judge forced the state’s attorney to drop their misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass during a March 2 trial date.

Police arrested them Sept. 13 while Schiano and Georgiades were filming water protectors who had locked themselves to construction equipment. In a video of the arrest, one of the journalists can be heard saying, "I’m press, sir. I’m press."

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Water protestors head to Washington

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