Sheriff should defend anti-protest laws in court, Keystone XL opponents' lawyers say

BISMARCK, N.D. — Attorneys for oil pipeline opponents are fighting a South Dakota sheriff’s attempt to be dismissed as a defendant in a lawsuit challenging new state laws that aim to prevent disruptive demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom should remain a defendant in the suit spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union because he will be enforcing law that amounts to an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, an attorney for the plaintiffs argued in a Tuesday court filing.

The Republican-backed legislation passed in March allows officials to pursue criminal or civil penalties from demonstrators who engage in “riot boosting,” which is defined in part as encouraging violence during a riot.

Supporters of the legislation sought to head off protests of the Keystone XL like those mounted against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota in 2016

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