Since midsummer, thousands of Native Americans have assembled near the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers to protest the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which local tribes say crosses their sacred sites and could threaten Standing Rock’s water supply in the event of a rupture.
In July of this year, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that approved the pipeline project, arguing that the federal government had failed to consult with the tribe as required by federal law.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is deeply concerned about the construction of a major crude-oil pipeline that passes through their ancestral lands,” reads the FAQ of the tribe’s website. “There are two broad issues. First, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River (at Lake Oahe) just a half a mile upstream of the Tribe’s reservation boundary, where a spill would be culturally and economically catastrophic. Second, the pipeline would pass through areas of great cultural significance, such as sacred sites and burials that federal law seeks to protect.”
The protests against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline have been increasing in size for months, but over the last couple of weeks, protests have grown tense as protestors claim militarized police forces are trying to strong arm them off their land. Local law enforcement sources claim thousands of nonnative, outside provocateurs and liberal activists have made their way into the area to cause chaos and push the protests beyond peaceful demonstrations.
In August, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency, cautioning executives at the pipeline company, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, that his administration could no longer “protect their workers adequately.” When Protesters attempted to obstruct E.T.P.’s bulldozers on September 3rd, things started spiraling out of control and the pipeline company sent in private security forces.
Energy Transfer Partners said “assailants broke through a fence and attacked our workers,” and the sheriff’s office said four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured. Five days later, Governor Dalrymple deployed the North Dakota National Guard.
During the most recent escalation in tensions, 127 pipeline protesters were arrested, in a move condemned by the tribe as a disproportionate and unnecessary show of force by local law enforcement. Tribal leaders are calling on the US Department of Justice to intervene on behalf of the protesters. The statement below is from the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II.
The militarization of local law enforcement and enlistment of multiple law enforcements agencies from neighboring states is needlessly escalating violence and unlawful arrests against peaceful protesters at Standing Rock. We do not condone reports of illegal actions, but believe the majority of peaceful protesters are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement.
Thousands of water protectors have joined the Tribe in solidarity against DAPL, without incident or serious injury. Yet, North Dakota law enforcement have proceeded with a disproportionate response to their non-violent exercise of their First Amendment rights, even going as far as labeling them rioters and calling their every action illegal.
We are disappointed to see that our state and congressional delegations and Gov. Jack Dalrymple have failed to ensure the safety and rights of the citizens engaged in peaceful protests who were arrested on Saturday. Their lack of leadership and commitment to creating a dialogue towards a peaceful solution reflects not only the unjust historical narrative against Native Americans, but a dangerous trend in law enforcement tactics across America.
For these reasons, we believe the situation at Standing Rock deserves the immediate and full attention of the U.S. Department of Justice. Furthermore, the DOJ should impose an injunction to all developments at the pipeline site to keep ALL citizens – law enforcement and protesters—safe. The DOJ should be enlisted and expected to investigate the overwhelming reports and videos demonstrating clear strong-arm tactics, abuses and unlawful arrests by law enforcement.
Preventing government agencies from stripping protesters and tribal members of their constitutional rights to organize and protect our sacred places and water is paramount to both U.S. citizens and tribal sovereignty.
— Ruth Hopkins (@RuthHHopkins) October 17, 2016
The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline project would carry more than 470,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to another pipeline in Patoka, Illinois.
The North Dakota tribe has called on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate law enforcement tactics against the self-described water activists as protests, arrests, and violence intensify.