In a disturbing course of events this past Thursday, the protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota were met with violence from hundreds of armed police officers. According to Juan Gonzalez with Democracy Now! in a web show, hundreds of officers aligned themselves with riot gear and MRAPs (mine resistant ambush protected military vehicles) and raided a camp of Native American protesters calling themselves water protectors. You can read a previous article of mine about the DAPL protest progress here.
Amy Goodman, who had a well-documented stand-off with the police at the DAPL protests and was facing a riot charge for her footage of the DAPL protests that was later thrown out by a judge, continued to talk about the issue in the same web show with Gonzalez. In her report, Goodman reported that,
"Water protectors set up a blockade of the highway [intersection of highways 1806 and 134] using cars, tires, fire in order to try to protect their camp, parts of which were demolished by police. "
This was in the midst of multiple protesters attaching themselves to trucks on the highway to halt police advancement. Police met the ever-growing tense crowd of protesters with bean bag shots, mace and a sound cannon that would temporarily disable protesters from furthering their organized protests. Subsequently, 117 protesters were arrested.
I will point out now that there was some violence from the side of the protesters. In a local news report, writer Sara Berlinger reported that protesters ran an armed civilian off the road and shot him in the hand. Another protester was apprehended after having allegedly shot 3 .38 rounds at police officers.
However, I would also like to point out that when a government neglects their people of certain inalienable rights and then confronts them with hundreds of armed police officers, they are bound to get violent. Push a group without privilege far enough and they will break.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to President Obama after the escalation on Thursday urging him to contact the Department of Justice and put a suspension on the expedited permits the Army Corps of Engineers acquired to continue building the DAPL. Sanders reasoned that American citizens were in danger of losing both bodily safety and their First Amendment rights to free speech. He also argued that the Army Corps of Engineers still needed to complete and environmental and cultural impact survey before moving forward with the pipeline. And of course being Bernie, Sanders pointed out that the negative environmental impact of 20 million gallons of crude oil transported every day was too much to ignore in the context of climate change. Specifically, Sanders orated that,
"Moreover, it is deeply distressing to me that the federal government is putting the profits of the oil industry ahead of the treaty and sovereign rights of Native American communities."
Snaps for Bernie using his voice to bring Native American issues to the forefront of American issues.
And snaps to the water protectors for holding their ground. We all wait in suspense to see the outcome of your fight.