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Outrageous! Felony Charges Given to Journalist Filming Anti-Pipeline Protest

Many of you may have read my post on EcoWatch this morning, and already know that Deia Schlosberg, the producer of my new climate change documentary, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change, was arrested Tuesday in Walhalla, North Dakota, for filming a protest against a pipeline bringing Canadian tar sands oil into the U.S.

But, what you probably don't know is that she was escorted to the courthouse this afternoon and was charged with Class A and C felony charges that carry 45 years maximum sentences combined. The charges include, two Class A felony charges and one Class C felony charge, and conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

I am outraged and need your help. Please watch my Facebook video below, read the letter I'm asking you to sign and then click here to sign it. Thank you!

Here's my Facebook live video from just one hour ago:

Here's the letter I'm spreading around in hopes to get more people to sign on:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I regret to inform you that documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, producer of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change was arrested while filming a protest action in North Dakota. She was held for 48 hours in Pembina County Jail without access to her attorney.

This should send a chill down the spine of every documentary filmmaker and journalist. In my view, the North Dakota police are in violation of the First Amendment, charging a documentary filmmaker with conspiracy rather than viewing her as a reporter/journalist exercising her First Amendment right is unfair, unjust and illegal. We need a show of support right now for Deia's immense courage and for the First Amendment.‎

Now here is the really bad news and this is why we need you to act right now. This afternoon she was escorted to the courthouse where she was charged with Class A and C felony charges that carry 45 years maximum sentences combined. She has been charged with: two Class A felony charges and one Class C felony charge, and conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

These charges are a threat to our freedom of expression on the most basic level and especially to documentary filmmaking. If we cannot film events as they're happening, especially protest events or events that the establishment and the police might consider crime, we will never work or live in the same way again.

How many times have you been in a situation where people were being arrested and your camera was the only witness to the event that could truly portray what was happening?

Imagine now that simply by filming the actions of others you could face felony charges with maximum sentences of 45 years. That's why we have a First Amendment. The Constitution protects the freedom of the press and our right to document events.

We need an outcry from all documentary filmmakers, journalists and artists immediately.

I'm asking you to sign onto a very simple letter that states this:

Dear members of the media, governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple, U.S. Attorney General Chris Myers and President Obama:

Deia Schlosberg was exercising her First Amendment right as a journalist. The state of North Dakota's criminal complaint filed against her on Oct. 13 should be dropped immediately. Journalism, especially documentary filmmaking, is not a crime, it's a responsibility. The freedom of the press is a fundamental right in our free society. The charges filed against her are an injustice that must be dropped immediately.

Here's who has signed on to the letter so far:

  • Josh Fox, Oscar Nominated director, documentarian and filmmaker
  • Daryl Hannah, actress/activist
  • Neil Young, musician
  • Frances Fisher, Activist, Treasurer - EMA, Actress
  • LEE CAMP, Host, Redacted Tonight
  • Christopher Ryan, writer
  • Bill McKibben, Writer, Co-Founder 350.org
  • Mark Ruffalo, Actor, Director, Activist
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
  • David Braun, Director, Writer, Producer
  • Alex Ebert (AKA Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) golden globe winner
  • Steven Tabakin, Peabody Award-winning film producer
  • Chloe Maxmin, Founder First Here, Then Everywhere
  • Alexis Krauss, musician
  • Jon Bowermaster, author, filmmaker, journalist
  • Alexander Zaitchik, author/journalist
  • Francesca Fiorentini, Journalist
  • Paul Bassis, Producer
  • Tim DeChristopher, Founder of Climate Disobedience The Action Center for Education & Community Development, Inc.
  • Nathan Truesdell Documentary Filmmaker
  • Bethany Yarrow, singer/activist
  • Chris Paine, director "who killed the electric car"
  • Vallejo Gantner, curator, arts executive
  • Jane Kleeb, Our Revolution Board Member, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair-Elect
  • Tanya Rivero Warren, journalist
  • Maggie Surovell, Professor of voice and speech
  • Seven McDonald Award Winning Columnist (LA Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, Nylon)
  • Henry Lai, director of product design, Echo360
  • Councilman Robert Eklund, Town of New Lisbon NY
  • Julia Pacetti President of JMP Verdant Communications
  • Deborah Parker, Tulalip Tribal Citizen, Board Member, Our Revolution
  • Greg King, Editor, Filmmaker
  • Alex Tyson, Filmmaker
  • Alison Klayman, Sundance-winning, Emmy-nominated documentarian and filmmaker
  • Stefanie Spear, Founder/CEO EcoWatch
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