State will allow anti-vax protest at S.D. Capitol

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state Bureau of Administration has reversed itself and granted a permit to an anti-vaccination group that plans a protest at the South Dakota Capitol on Monday and Tuesday during the Legislature’s special sessions, a lawyer for the group said Friday.

State government’s decision made unnecessary a hearing that U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange had scheduled for Friday morning to consider whether to grant a temporary restraining order.

Alan Gura, an attorney for the Institute for Free Speech, told KELOLAND News that the lawsuit filed by Blue State Refugees against bureau officials and Governor Kristi Noem would continue.

The Republican governor’s communications director, Ian Fury, confirmed Friday that the permit was issued.

The bureau previously had cited the annual Christmas-trees display as the reason that groups aren’t allowed to hold events at the Capitol during November and December. The lawsuit seeks a change in that policy. Gura said talks are continuing.

“We resolved the issue whether the protest will take place next week,” Gura said. “The lawsuit is not dismissed. It’s going forward.”

The Noem administration’s change of position came the same day that South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg joined at least 10 other states in a lawsuit against U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration over its COVID-19 vaccination requirements for businesses employing more than 100.

The Legislature meets in special session Monday, November 8, to consider setting new boundaries for its 35 districts starting with the 2022 elections. Lawmakers open a special session Tuesday, November 9, into the possible impeachment of Ravnsborg for his actions on the night of September 12, 2020, when the car he was driving struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever who was walking along US 14 at the west edge of Highmore.

The South Dakota Constitution allows special sessions to be called only to cover a specific topic. Anti-vaccination legislators wanted a special session but weren’t able to get support from the governor or the required two-thirds support from both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

One of those asking for anti-vaccination mandate legislation to be considered next week is state Representative Taffy Howard. She is challenging U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson for the Republican nomination in the June 2022 party primary.

In a recent news release Howard stated, “Thousands of livelihoods are at stake due to unconstitutional mandates and intrusions into medical privacy… This isn’t about politics anymore. This is about standing together against tyranny.”

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