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LETTER: Pipeline opponents are not terrorists

To the Editor:

The Custer, Hot Springs and Deadwood school districts each held a drill recently to test their crisis plans in response to a scripted terrorist threat. The source of that "threat"? According to the script, a group opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. In other words, the threat came from someone resembling a great many citizens of good conscience across this state who have legitimate concerns about the Keystone XL. Someone like myself, for example.

Are our taxpayer dollars really to pay for an exercise in which some of us are portrayed as potential domestic terrorists simply because we challenge prevailing public opinion, bully corporations or broken government?

West River officials responsible for this drill told me they "never intended to offend anyone and are very sorry that some citizens have taken offense." This sort of "nonapology" apology has become typical of our public officials, and it misses the point. This drill was offensive not just to "some persons" but to the people. In no democracy should public officials be allowed to demonize a group of citizens because of their stance on a particular issue.

Some of the drill planners blamed the journalist who reported its success for having made public their private script. But that journalist was just doing his job. If planners are now on the defensive, it's because their script was fundamentally inappropriate.

Officials said they focused on Keystone XL because it would add realism to the scenario. But you don't "add realism" by being unrealistic. No Keystone XL opponent is known ever to have threatened a school or any other public place. In fact, many (if not most) of us are expressly devoted to nonviolence.

So why paint us -- or any group of citizens -- with a "terrorist" brush, unless to attack our goals?