Lee County, IA & Morton County, ND – Three Unicorn Riot journalists who were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing while documenting #NoDAPL direct actions have had their charges dropped in court dates set for the first three days of March.
On Wednesday, March 1, Unicorn Riot journalist Jenn Schreiter had their criminal trespass charge dismissed in Iowa. The following Thursday, March 2, two other Unicorn Riot journalists had their criminal trespassing charges dropped in North Dakota.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) March 3, 2017
During a trial on March 2 in Morton County, North Dakota, assistant state’s attorney Brian Grossinger was unable to get charges to stick for Unicorn Riot journalist Chris Schiano when Brendan Nix, an employee of DAPL security contractor 10-Code LLC and the prosecution’s witness, was unable to positively identify any defendant as having been notified that they were trespassing at a pipeline work site on September 13.
This inability to identify alleged trespassers led the judge to conclude that the state lacked adequate evidence to prove criminal trespass occurred on September 13, which then led to an acquittal for Chris Schiano as well as for Dale American Horse Jr., a water protector also arrested that day whose case had been enjoined with Chris’ by the court.
Charges were then also dropped for Niko Georgiades, another Unicorn Riot journalist, as well as several other water protectors facing charges from September 13. They had been scheduled to go to trial on Friday, March 3.
Brendan Nix’s employer, 10-Code LLC, came under scrutiny last year for their connection to the September 3 incident in which pipeline security contractors from another firm unleashed attack dogs on water protectors. We attempted to interview 10-Code Security at their Bismarck office in September, but were turned away without receiving any comment from their staff.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) September 19, 2016
Our journalist Lorenzo Serna continues to face charges of criminal trespass in Lee County, Iowa, and charges of criminal trespass and engaging in a riot in North Dakota, both stemming from arrests which took place while reporting on direct actions by water protectors and the response by law enforcement.
In total, four Unicorn Riot journalists were arrested while reporting on resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in both North Dakota and Iowa.
CPJ also wrote a letter to Morton County State’s Attorney Allen Koppy calling for the criminal charges against independent journalists to be dropped.
“Dear Mr. Koppy,
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.
CPJ has documented at least 10 journalists still facing charges in relation to the protests, including nine in Morton County. Two of the journalists–Christopher Schiano and Nicholas Georgiades, from the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot–face trial on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges today and tomorrow respectively. Police arrested them September 13 while Schiano and Georgiades were filming protesters 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.”
Other journalists still facing charges include freelancers Sara LeFleur-Vetter, Jihan Hafiz, Adam Schrader, Jenifer Stum, and Jenni Monet, and Lorenzo Serna, from Unicorn Riot, and Myron Dewey, from Digital Smoke Signals. On February 28, five press freedom and journalist groups, including CPJ, sent a letter to your office asking that it return equipment to freelance photographers Tonita Cervantes and Tracie Williams, who were arrested last week and still face charges. We are glad to hear that their equipment was returned to them yesterday.
At least five of the journalists facing charges, with whom CPJ spoke, said they were arrested despite attempting to follow police orders to disperse or remain behind police lines. Monet said in a column for Columbia Journalism Review that she was arrested while following an officer’s order to leave an area where protests were taking place.
Most of the journalists facing charges are freelancers or from smaller, independent outlets that lack the resources to pay attorney fees or mount a public defense for the reporters. The fact that these journalists do not have the backing of large media companies may make them more vulnerable–but it does not lessen their First Amendment protected right to report the news.
Journalists have an important role in documenting incidents in the public interest, including instances of civil disobedience and law enforcement operations. This role often draws them near to the scene of action. Trespass and rioting laws should require criminal intent, and journalists who are simply doing their job should not face criminal charges.
Prosecutors and the courts often use discretion to avoid charging journalists arrested at protests. There is recent precedent for this: the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia announced that it dropped charges against at least six reporters who were swept up in arrests on inauguration day in Washington D.C.
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. 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.” – CPJ Letter
To view the reports (filled with media) from dates on which our reporters were arrested while producing #NoDAPL coverage, see below:
- March 29th, “Tribal Citizens Prepare to Blockade Bakken Oil Pipeline“.
- April 3rd, “Tribal Citizens Build Camp in Path of Oil Pipeline“.
- May 5th, “Sacred Stone Camp Resists Dakota Access Pipeline“.
- May 27th, “Dakota Access Pipeline Blockade Enters 2nd Month“.
- After covering the camp in the spring of 2016, Unicorn Riot returned to Standing Rock Reservation on Wednesday, August 10th, when Standing Rock tribal members and allies blocked the entrance to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.
- On Thursday, August 11th, a dozen or so people were arrested blocking the construction site entrances.
- Day 3, Friday, the fight to protect land & water intensified around the construction sites of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- On the 4th day, the pipeline resistance encampment swelled and prepared for more action.
- Monday, August 15th, land defenders stormed the construction site halting construction, and the next day construction was halted as well.
- August 17th saw State Police begin checkpoints, roadblocks, and psyops as protesters united to defend water.
- August 24th, camps prepared as Federal injunction hearing looms.
- Camps Organize to Stay as Injunction Postponed.
- On August 31st, Non-Violent Direct Action Stopped DAPL Construction for Over 6 Hours.
- September 6, indigenous water protectors swarmed Dakota Access Pipeline site, stopped work
- September 7, Uŋpa Nuŋpa was interviewed about ongoing #noDAPL actions
- North Dakota highway patrol refused to release email correspondence with Energy Transfer Partners
- September 8, ND National Guard took over Dakota Access Pipeline checkpoints
- Friday, September 9, US Govt. overruled federal judge and requested pipeline construction halted at Lake Oahe
- Meanwhile, cultural activities continued at #NoDAPL camps despite more arrests/warrants
- September 13, 20 were arrested during #NoDAPL lockdown, including 2 Unicorn Riot journalists
- September 14, direct actions continued against Dakota Access Pipeline while legal repression intensified
- On September 16 a federal judge dissolved the unconstitutional temporary restraining order Dakota Access, LLC had filed against Stranding Rock tribal members
- September 19, as solidarity protests spread nationwide, the federal appeals court ordered construction temporarily stop on Dakota Access segment as Solidarity Protests Spread Nationwide
- September 21, #NoDAPL noise demo demanded freedom for jailed water protector Olowan Martinez
- September 22, water protectors disrupted the annual meeting of the North Dakota Petroleum Council
- September 25, water protectors planted trees on DAPL construction site
- In Iowa on September 26, a non-violent direct action from the Mississippi Stand camp stopped DAPL construction for the day
- September 26, a caravan of water protectors stopped work at DAPL site
- September 27, militarized police arrested 23 water protectors in DAPL work stoppage
- September 29, a #NoDAPL solidarity action took place at MN Enbridge office
- October 3rd-4th saw the "Toxic Tour," Governor debate disruption, and water protectors attend their court arraignment
- October 4, we learned North Dakota Governor Dalrymple's email inbox was full of support for #NoDAPL
- October 5, Buffer Zone Holds as Caravans Continue to Disrupt DAPL – New Felony Charges
- October 7, 6 Arrested in Iowa #NoDAPL Action, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 8, Iowa Water Protectors Blockade DAPL Drill Site Twice in 24 Hours
- October 9, Federal Appeals Court Rules to Allow DAPL Construction
- October 10, 27 Arrests After Water Protectors Pray at DAPL Site on Indigenous People's Day
- October 12, Lockdown Stops DAPL Construction in Iowa, 3 Arrested, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 14, Emails Show North Dakota Budget Bureaucracy Behind #NoDAPL Policing
- October 16, Direct Actions Continue to Stop DAPL Construction in Iowa and North Dakota
- October 17, Four Unicorn Riot Journalists Face Charges For Covering #NoDAPL
- October 17, Water Protectors Blockade Highway in Bismarck, Some Charges Dropped
- October 20, As DAPL Construction Advances, Water Protectors Continue Direct Action
- October 22, Water Protectors’ Prayer Walk Ends up with 127 Arrests, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 23, Law Enforcement Attack Private Drone as Water Protectors Erect Blockade & New Winter Camp
- October 24, Mississippi Stand Blockades Iowa DAPL Drill Waste Site, Drilling Stops
- October 25, Records Release: Morton County’s Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Assistance Agreement
- Hundreds Flood Minneapolis City Hall to Demand Local Sheriff Withdraw from North Dakota
- October 26, Tensions Rise as Pipeline Construction Nears #NoDAPL Blockade
- October 27, Police and Military Attack Oceti Sakowin Treaty Camp
- November 1, #NoDAPL Solidarity Rally & Sit-In in Minneapolis Prods Sheriff into Removing Deputies
- November 1, DAPL Resistance Continues Despite Advancing Construction
- November 2, Police Attack Water Protectors Defending Sacred Sites
- November 5, DAPL Construction Nears US Army Corps Land While Still Lacking Permits
- November 6, Water Protectors Attempt to Reclaim Sacred Burial Site, Demonstrate in Cemetery
- November 8, Dakota Access Announces Plan to Drill Under Missouri River Within Weeks
- November 11, Dakota Access Pipeline Work Stopped As Water Protectors Storm Site; 30+ Arrested
- November 14, #NoDAPL Water Protectors March on ND State Capitol after Caravan Disrupts Construction
- November 14, Mississippi Stand Goes Inside Pipeline and Shuts Down DAPL Construction
- November 14, Army Corps Delays DAPL Easement
- November 15, "No More Stolen Sisters" Demonstration Blockades DAPL Man Camp; 25+ Arrests
- November 16, Despite Army Corps Statement, DAPL Moves Horizontal Drill to Missouri River Crossing
- November 17, Demonstration in Bismarck-Mandan, Cass County Deputies Beat Man Bloody
- November 20, Police Attack Unarmed Water Protectors w/ Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and Water Cannons; 300+ injured
- November 21, Land Defense & Water Protection Actions Ripple Across Turtle Island
- November 22, Hundreds Target U.S. Army Corps Building in St. Paul w #NoDAPL Message
- November 22, Anonymous DDOS Munitions Vendor After Sheriffs Attack #NoDAPL
- November 22, #NoDAPL Water Protector Faces Possible Loss Of Her Arm After Police Attack
- November 24, Water Protectors Bridge onto Turtle Island; Mandan Thanksgiving Street Feast
- November 25, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Announces Intent to Close Oceti Sakowin #NoDAPL Camp
- November 29, Excessive Force Lawsuit Filed Against Morton County Sheriff for November 20 Bridge Assault
- December 1, Direct Action Continues To Disrupt Dakota Access Pipeline Construction in Iowa
- December 3, Divest from DAPL; Three Wells Fargo Locations Targeted in Minneapolis, Eight People Locked Down and Two Arrested
- December 4, Army Corps Denies Dakota Access Pipeline Easement
- December 8, Veterans Apologize for Genocide & March to Backwater Bridge in Blizzard
- December 8, Nebraska Supplied State Troopers, Surveillance Aircraft to North Dakota Under EMAC
- December 12, #DivestFromDAPL Action Disrupts Wells Fargo Branch Grand Opening, Doors Secured with Bike Locks
- December 19, First Water Protector Trials Set for January as Another ND Pipeline Leaks
- January 2, Massive #DivestFromDAPL Banner Unfurled During Vikings Game at US Bank Stadium
- January 5, Interview: Water Protector who Scaled Vikings Stadium to Drop “US Bank DIVEST #NoDAPL” Banner
- January 15, Indigenous-Led Pipeline Resistance Camps Spread Across the USA
- January 24, Hundreds of Minnesotans Protest, Take to the Streets on Trump’s Inauguration
- January 25, Trump Pushes Forward DAPL & KXL Pipeline Approvals; Resistance Continues
- January 30, Denver Joins Global Prayer Action to #DefundDAPL
- February 7, Army Corps Grants Easement as Repression Continues at Standing Rock
- February 17, Eviction Threats Loom as Hundreds Remain at #NoDAPL Camps
- February 22, Militarized Force Executes Eviction of Main #NoDAPL Encampment
- February 23, North Dakota Dismantles #NoDAPL Oceti Camp
- February 27, Three Unicorn Riot Journalists Face Trial This Week From DAPL Coverage
- March 2, Three Unicorn Riot Journalists Have #NoDAPL Arrest Charges Dropped
- March 11, Rise With Standing Rock: Native Nations March on Denver
- March 11, Rise With Standing Rock: Native Nations March on Denver To help our volunteer-operated, horizontally-organized, non-profit media collective please consider a tax-deductible donation: