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Governor Hopes Law Portends Peace among Potential Protesters

Activists hold signs during a rally on Dakota Access Pipeline
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Some cry racism. Others call it a necessary measure of prevention. It’s now the law in South Dakota.

On Monday, Governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 176, an Act to preserve the use of public land, to ensure free travel, to enhance emergency response, and to declare an emergency. The bill is a response to the plight of North Dakota law enforcement which faced an influx of people to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline’s crossing under the Missouri River.

Daugaard says the law defines how far protesters can go to lawfully make their case.

“It protects the rights of those who want to exercise their (right to) free speech. Yet it does so in a way protest that also protects against people who would break the law, (such as) trespass, obstruct traffic or create dangerous situations.”

To address the issue of potential bias against South Dakota Tribes, Daugaard wants suggestions on how to balance the concerns of all.

“I’ve invited all the Tribal leaders to join with me in examining how we can respond to public safety needs as people exercise their free speech rights.”

Another aspect of the law gives the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court temporary authority to provide assistance in counties that see an overabundance in criminal cases.

Both houses passed the measure with a two-thirds majority plus an emergency clause and is effective immediately.

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