A bill that creates criminal and civil penalties for rioting or inciting a riot won the approval of the SD House of Representative on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
HB1117 establishes criminal penalties when three or more people harm people or damage property. The bill includes penalties for inciting a riot or “riot boosting.” The bill also allows that civil penalties be imposed.
A similar version of the bill was passed by the Legislature last year and struck down in court. In the Native American community, the bill is seen as a means to stifle protests of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“This bill aims to protect peaceful protest,” said Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids. “Rioting shuts down peaceful protest.”
Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, called the legislation a means for dividing South Dakotans through perpetrating a ruse.
“The ruse here is that South Dakotans really want this,” Bordeaux said, noting that the state had to pay $180,000 in legal fees for passing last year’s legislation.
Rep. Timothy Goodwin, R-Rapid City, said paying $180,000 in order to get the legislation right on the second try was far less than the $35 million cost North Dakota faced after pipeline protests.
The legislation directly attacks indigenous people, according to Rep. Kelly Sullivan, D-Sioux Falls.
“This is a bill that stifles free speech,” she said.
HB1117 includes language that tries to differentiate between lawful assembly and riot.
“I view this bill as protecting our right to peacefully assemble,” said Rep. Michael Diedrich, R-Rapid City.
Faced with the possibility of being convicted of a Class 4 felony and spending 10 years in prison will deter protest, according to Rep. Peri Pourier, D-Pine Ridge.
“That is going to keep me from going to protest,” Pourier said. “This is not a real solution.”
The House approved the bill on a vote of 45-25. It now goes to the Senate.