Police Clash with Pipeline Protesters

The confluence of the twin issues of Native American respect for the land and modern environmentalists’ alarm over global warming has met in resistance to a North Dakota oil pipeline, observed Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

It’s like we are back to the 1800s when the U.S. Army rampaged against Native American tribes across the American West. The militarized police and the use of the National Guard this week in responding to the Standing Rock Sioux Native American challenge in North Dakota to big oil and its dangerous pipelines reminds one of Custer’s Last Stand against Sitting Bull.

In fact, the portrait of Sitting Bull is on one of the most popular t-shirts available to supporters of the “water protectors,” as those are known who protest yet one more oil pipeline that crosses sensitive watershed areas and major rivers of the United States.

A graphic used by protesters resisting the Dakota Access pipeline.

A graphic used by protesters resisting the Dakota Access pipeline.

Four days last week, I joined hundreds of Native Americans and social justice campaigners from around the United States and around the world, in challenging the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL), the 1,172-mile, $3.7 billion dollar scar across the face of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

Last week, I photographed the area along Highway 6 south of Bismarck where the Energy Transfer Partnership contractors were busy digging the trench for the “Black Snake” as the pipeline is called.

I also counted 24 police cars returning to Bismarck at shift change around 3 p.m., a huge number of state law enforcement personnel and vehicles dedicated to protection of corporate business, instead of the rights of citizens.

Huge machines were chewing up the earth near water sources for all of North Dakota. The pipeline was rerouted from near Bismarck so if the pipeline breaks it would not endanger the water supply of the capital city of the state. But it was relocated to where it will cross the Missouri River and will jeopardize the water supply of the Native Americans and all Americans living in southern North Dakota and downstream of the Missouri River.

Security forces protecting the Dakota Access pipeline construction spray protesters with pepper spray. (Photo by Tim Yakaitis)

Security forces protecting the Dakota Access pipeline construction spray protesters with pepper spray. (Photo by Tim Yakaitis)

On Thursday, the digging took a more confrontational turn. The huge digging equipment arrived to cut across State Highway 1806 at a spot where water protectors had set up a front-line camp several months ago, one mile north of the main encampment of over 1,000 people.  As the equipment arrived, the “water protectors” blocked the highway.

In a dangerous incident, an armed private security guard of DAPL came onto the camp and was chased off into the water abutting the camp by water protectors. After a lengthy standoff, tribal agency police arrived and arrested the security guard. Water protectors set his security vehicle on fire.

On Friday more than 100 local and state police and North Dakota National Guard arrested over 140 people who blocked the highway attempting to stop the destruction of the land. Police in riot gear with automatic rifles lined up across a highway, with multiple MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected military vehicles), a sound cannon that can immobilize persons nearby, Humvees driven by National Guardsmen, an armored police truck and a bulldozer.

Police used mace, pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang grenades and bean-bag rounds against Native Americans who lined up on the highway.   Police reportedly shot rubber bullets at their horses and wounded one rider and his horse.

As this police mayhem was unfolding, a small herd of buffalo stampeded across a nearby field, a strong symbolic signal to the water protectors who erupted in cheers and shouts, leaving law enforcement officials wondering what was happening.

The security forces protecting the Dakota Access pipeline against protesters are heavily militarized. (Photo by Tim Yakaitis)

The security forces protecting the Dakota Access pipeline against protesters are heavily militarized. (Photo by Tim Yakaitis)

 

The legality of the use by the State of North Dakota of its National Guard for the protests has been questioned strongly. National Guardsmen have been operating checkpoints to control entrance into the area and later were reportedly used to go house to house to talk to citizens about the protests — clearly law enforcement functions, not responsibilities of a military organization.

Supporters of the water protectors come from all over the United States. One grandmother arrived with cooking equipment and food, purchased with her social security check. Her granddaughter who helps her keep track of her finances, called her and said, “Granny, you have only $9 left in your bank account.” She responded, “Yes, and I going to use it today to buy more food to cook for these good people who are trying to save our water and our culture.”

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserve and retired as a Colonel. She also was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years.  She resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.

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12 comments for “Police Clash with Pipeline Protesters

  1. evelync
    October 29, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you, Ann, for resigning the night you found out the George W Bush Administration launched their “preventive” and illegal war on Iraq and for supporting the protectors fighting to protect their land and water in ND!

    Thank you for this report.
    You’re the best!

  2. Bill Bodden
    October 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    I also counted 24 police cars returning to Bismarck at shift change around 3 p.m., a huge number of state law enforcement personnel and vehicles dedicated to protection of corporate business, instead of the rights of citizens.

    For most of their history the role of law enforcement has been to protect the assets of the Establishment whether it is national, state or local. If necessary, law enforcement has often acted as the Establishment’s good squad clobbering anyone so impertinent as to object to being downtrodden.

    It is ironic that labor, often on the receiving end of Establishment brutality, is now aligned with the oppressors. But that is how the capitalist system works.

  3. Patrick
    October 29, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks Ann. I like what you are doing. I am a carpenter in California; I want to support the Indians over there. I am tempted to call in sick this coming week and fly there. With enough people there, they might be able to do this thing. We are trashing the planet.

  4. jaycee
    October 29, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    According to the reasoning of the current national security establishment, vicious attacks on peaceful protesters must necessarily make the authorities illegitimate and justifies their removal. According to these theories – as applied in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and Venezuela – regime change backed by outside powers is now an operable concept. Not that this is going to happen, or should happen, but just saying.

  5. October 29, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Tho not at Standing Rock I send my prayers and good will to our brave native peoples and brave supporters of the effort to Protect our water. We watch the news and pray for your safety. Wopila! Signed; Pejuta Win

  6. Carl Rising-Moore
    October 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    If activists, to include myself had just 1% of the fire in our bellies like Ann Wright, the USA and the world would be a safe and healthy place to raise our children.

  7. Zachary Smith
    October 29, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    Food for thought from the Sputnik International site.

    More than 100 Native Americans were arrested October 27 for protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline, while on the same day Ammon Bundy and other (white) members of a right-wing militia were acquitted of all charges related to their 41-day armed occupation of federal land in Oregon earlier this year.

    https://sputniknews.com/us/201610301046882119-native-americans-pipeline-protest/

  8. October 30, 2016 at 10:07 am

    •••••••••••• http://tinyurl.com/e-jobs2017

  9. John
    October 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you Ann, and all of the others out there doing what is right…

    It is sickening that we have national guard going full force on unarmed protestors, on the same day that heavily armed goons who took over a wildlife refuge were acquitted…

  10. Zachary Smith
    October 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Headline: Why Dakota Is the New Keystone

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/29/opinion/why-dakota-is-the-new-keystone.html?_r=0

    Sample:

    Originally, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri just north of Bismarck, until people pointed out that a leak there would threaten the drinking water supply for North Dakota’s second biggest city. The solution, in keeping with American history, was obvious: make the crossing instead just above the Standing Rock reservation, where the poverty rate is nearly three times the national average. This has been like watching the start of another Flint, Mich., except with a chance to stop it.

  11. TJM
    October 30, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Is this part of Obama’s new push to stop global warming?

    Why is it anytime the stuffed shirts can actually do something that is real and takes on the causes of the problem, they acquiesce to power.

    • J'hon Doe II
      October 31, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      jaycee — “According to the reasoning of the current national security establishment, vicious attacks on peaceful protesters must necessarily make the authorities illegitimate and justifies their removal.

      Why waste that emotion with an attack on a lame duck “chief of state”? – one whose presiding powers were reduced to nothing under a stultifying conservative congress that was so pissing bigoted that they Open The Door to the self-indulgent narcissist Mr. Trump. ( I refer to him as Mister in deference to those powerful militiamen, with all their surveillance powers, multitudes of ammunition and willing stooges – the rigged election scheme and a Blue-Lives-Matter back-up force, is the stage being set for a modern day coup’d etat in America? The 2nd one in this new millennium? An arrogation of gov’t Power?

      Why not stand up with assertive passion for “liberty” and “justice” for all?

      http://www.democracynow.org/2016/10/31/bundys_vs_nodapl_armed_white_militia

      http://www.democracynow.org/2016/10/31/standing_rock_dallas_goldtooth_on_suspiciou

      ::

      ARE THESE A PREVIEW OF COMING EVENTS ?

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