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Lawsuit filed to allow protests on Capitol grounds as special session approaches

A lawsuit against Governor Kristi Noem and members of the South Dakota Bureau of Administration is looking to allow protesters to demonstrate at the Capitol.
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A lawsuit against Governor Kristi Noem and members of the South Dakota Bureau of Administration is looking to allow protesters to demonstrate at the Capitol Building next week. The plaintiffs said they’ve been denied the opportunity to do so.

A request filed by the Blue State Refugees is looking to place a temporary restraining order on what they said is the Bureau’s decision to not allow any demonstrations during the months of November and December. They said the reason they were given was due to ongoing Christmas decorations at the Capitol.

“Surely, we can find some place to be that’s reasonable near the capitol building to express ourselves. And for that not to have any conflict with the fact that the building is being decorated for Christmas.” said Institute for Free Speech Vice President of Litigation Alan Gura.

The Blue State Refugees, represented by the Institute for Free Speech, is looking to demonstrate at the expected legislative session November 8th and 9th, next week. Along with requesting the temporary restraining order to allow the demonstration, a lawsuit was also filed in federal court, asking the judge to declare the state’s seasonal prohibition on political gatherings unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

“These individuals want to go to the state capitol grounds next week, on November 8th and 9th, Monday and Tuesday. And have a demonstration on the state capitol grounds to coincide with the special legislative session.” said Gura.

In response to the lawsuit, Governor Noem said at a press conference that the issue comes down to miscommunication, and the Capitol being a busy place this time of year.

“I think it was more, just miscommunication and it was more, the amount of events that are happening.” said Noem.

She said her administration will be working to find a place for the Blue State Refugees to demonstrate, in a reasonable manner.

“We’re working to accommodate those individuals. Nobody’s being denied their free speech rights. They will be accommodated.” said Noem.

The Blue State Refugees are a different group from the Mandate Freedom Rally, another group of individuals looking to demonstrate at the same time. In a statement to Dakota News Now, they said they have no involvement with the lawsuit and are grateful for the space provided to them to demonstrate.

While we stand for all voices to be heard, it pains me deeply to see the hard work and efforts of Capitol staff be demonized, and the potential for our years of hard work to be entangled with that of unknown provocateurs from out of state. To be perfectly clear, Health Freedom South Dakota and the other groups participating in this rally are grateful for the space provided us outside the building, and we support the long-standing traditions of our Capitol’s Christmas traditions. We want to take this time to reiterate our gratitude for the Capitol and City of Pierre staff that bent over backwards to make us feel welcome, and heard and the work done to find a creative solution that benefits all those involved.

Mya T. Olson, Health Freedom South Dakota Founder

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