U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist Tracie Williams arrested at Standing Rock

Incident Details

Tracie Williams

A law enforcement officer points his gun at two Water Protectors praying near a Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp, on Feb. 23, 2017. Photojournalist Tracie Williams took this photograph moments before she was arrested.

— Tracie Williams
July 11, 2018 - Update

Charges dismissed

Williams’ charge of physical obstruction of a government function was dismissed in Morton County, North Dakota, on July 11, 2018.

January 29, 2018 - Update

Tracie Williams statement

In a statement to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Williams described the circumstances of her arrest:

On Feb 23, 2017, law enforcement arrived with snipers situated on the roofs of Humvees, dressed in camouflage and armed with automatic weapons to systematically clear the main resistance camp of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests just north of Cannon Ball, North Dakota. [I] was arrested while covering the militarized raid that took place there, moments after the image of the two Water Protectors praying near the Sacred Fire — with weapons aimed at their heads, point-blank range — was made.

[My] camera, audio recorder, memory cards and cell phone were confiscated as evidence. On March 1st, with perseverance and support of NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher and Matt E. Kelley (a lawyer from DC) along with several advocacy groups including the National Press Photographers’ Association, Committee to Protect Journalists, Native American Journalists Association, Online News Association, The Society of Professional Journalists and a local State Senator, [I] managed to get all of [my] gear back (data intact) literally hours before jumping on a plane back to NYC.

February 23, 2017

Tracie Williams, an independent photojournalist, was arrested on Feb. 23, 2017, while covering events at the Dakota Access Pipeline camp. Police seized her phone, camera, lenses, external battery packs, blank flash cards, and data discs and held them as evidence.

Williams is charged with physical obstruction of government function, a Class A misdemeanor that could result in a year in jail. According to police records, Williams pleaded not guilty.

According to the National Press Photographers Association, Williams’ seized equipment was returned to her on March 1.

Williams is scheduled to go to trial in June 2018.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].