Police and those present at the #NoDAPL protest encampment yesterday say that protestors have been cleared from the northern camp along the Cannon Ball River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. News reports say over 140 people were arrested, and officers used pepper spray against protesters but no serious injuries were reported.
Beginning at 11:15 am MT, officers moved toward a group of people camping out near highway 1806 near the town of Cannon Ball, N.D. According to the Associated Press, some of the officers were in riot gear, some were armed and they arrived with soldiers driving trucks and military Humvees. They also deployed helicopters and an airplane that monitored them from above.
The Federal Aviation Administration began restricting flights over the area on Tuesday afternoon, and will continue to do so until Nov. 5, according to the FAA website, which cites “hazards” in the area.
The police operation came the day after the Morton County Sheriff’s Department asked protesters to leave the land, which is in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline under construction.
Additionally, over the last several weeks, over 140 ‘water and land protectors’, as those protesting the building of the Dakota Access oil pipeline call themselves, have been arrested during police raids. The mainstream media has remained relatively mum about the human rights violations that have been unfolding at Standing Rock, where the construction of the multi-billion dollar funded Dakota Access Pipeline is underway.
Early in the week of October 22nd, a group of Native demonstrators chained themselves to bulldozers and heavy construction machinery that has desecrated sacred indigenous grounds. A separate group gathered early in the morning to pray and sing alongside their fellow ‘protectors’, but were confronted by heavily militarized police squads before they could reach their chained comrades.
Upon arrival, the police forces, armed with military-style weapons and vehicles, aggressively closed in on protesters, beating and pepper spraying men, women, youth, and elders. Injuries were reported by people on the frontline, as peaceful demonstrators were tackled and separated from their groups. The police squads continued to push back with batons and assault rifles. A large number of ‘protectors’ headed back to the camping site, after being told that they were going to be arrested if they stayed. When they attempted to leave, however, they found that the police had encircled the area, trapping them, and began arresting every single individual on sight.
Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, released a statement condemning the brutal and illegal arrests made during the peaceful demonstration. “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.” The Chairman went on to elaborate that he does not condone reports of illegal actions and believes that the majority of arrested parties were peaceful and simply reacting to “strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement.”
As of this writing, several of the water and land protectors have only recently been released from Mercer County Jail. Others continue to be held by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department on charges of trespassing and engaging in a riot on Standing Rock Sioux Spiritual Lands protected by the Fort Laramie Treaty.
In addition to the group of civilians arrested, police rounded up journalists and reporters, prompting accusations that they have actively attempted to stifle the freedom of the press, protected under the First Amendment.
Amy Goodman, host of the television and Independent Global News program Democracy Now! made headlines when she was imprisoned while covering the demonstrations that occurred at the Dakota Access Pipeline site. Ultimately the courts refused to authorize the charges against Goodman, shortly thereafter she released a statement saying: “This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public’s right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline.”
Frustrations continue to rise as media blackout continues. Rumors of Facebook censorship have been reported from various sources at the Sacred Stone camp (one of the encampments at Standing Rock). One individual posted on October 24th, 4:54PM in a ‘No DAPL’ group Facebook page: “Please pray for us massive police presence is mobilizing right now. Uploaded images on Facebook is not working.” Activists say it is possible that there is a strategic effort by authorities to erase the voices of the protectors, both onsite and through censoring their online activity.
Many have voiced outrage over the selective coverage being given by the media to such a critical issue. “It’s 2016. The Cleveland “Indians” are in the World Series. What Indians do you think people were talking about this weekend?” said Andrea Perkins, member of the Chinook and Haida Nations, and Chicago-based activist. “Well it wasn’t the 141 Indigenous peoples that were attacked for protecting the land and water. That’s for sure. Real Natives’ lives are in danger.”
Police and military have now moved on to staging a few miles down the road from where the water protectors have set up barricades. Some predict that they are waiting for visitors and media to start leaving before they make any moves so as to not draw attention. Native leaders have called upon allies from all parts of the country to come and stand in solidarity.