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South Dakota governor plans revision of riot-boosting laws

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is planning to have another try at so-called riot-boosting laws next year, despite previously drawing criticism for supporting such laws ahead of protests related to the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Republican governor has written to lawmakers with proposed changes to laws passed earlier this year that were later blocked by a federal judge. The state eventually settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union by agreeing not to enforce parts of the laws.

Noem is proposing changes in the law to repeal parts that the judge deemed unconstitutional and change the definition of “incitement to riot” to meet constitutional protections of free speech, according to her memo. It would charge people with “incitement to riot” if they “urge” three or more people to force or violence. The proposed law defines “urging” as “instigating, inciting, directing, threatening, or other similar conduct,” but excludes oral and written advocacy that does not urge force or violence.

Noem drew criticism from Native American tribes in the state for pushing the laws last year ahead of expected protests on Keystone XL pipeline construction. The Oglala Sioux Tribe banned her from tribal lands after Noem signed the legislation.

Noem cast her proposals as a way to protect protesters in a secure environment, “free from the few violent criminals who would seek to abuse their rights.” Noem’s letter also said that “riot boosting is still in effect and enforceable” even though parts of the law were knocked down as part of the settlement.

The ACLU issued a letter to lawmakers in response to the memo, arguing that the laws have “serious constitutional shortcomings.” The group also said that the memo has “several misleading and inaccurate claims” about the extent of the legal settlement and the state’s ability to enforce riot boosting.

Rep. Shawn Bordeux, a Democrat from Mission who is the chair of the State-Tribal Relations Committee, said Noem’s renewed efforts at putting riot-boosting prosecution on the books would continue to sour her relationship with the tribes in the state. “We’re not going to sit idly by and watch the state violate our constitutional rights,” he said.

Noem said she is seeking input from legislators on the changes.

Stephen Groves, The Associated Press