The protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is to be used to funnel crude oil across several states and which threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, got violent over the weekend. After months of relative peace (if not widespread discontent), private security workers sicced their attack dogs on Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, including children, most of whom are Native American, on Saturday; they also reportedly pepper sprayed dozens of protesters.
The violence ensued after construction workers and their destructive heavy equipment, employed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, destroyed sacred Native American sites and burial grounds. There have been numerous reports, including one by Democracy Now, that indicate that sacred sites near the Dakota Access Pipeline may have been deliberately targeted by construction workers and those who pay them. Those allegations haven’t been substantiated, but the fear that sacred sites could be in the cross-hairs and following the unprecedented violence used against Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, lawyers for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe went to court to file an emergency restraining order to stop construction on a specific area of the pipeline.
Specifically, legal counsel for the tribe wants construction halted on the area of the Dakota Access Pipeline where sacred sites and burial grounds were bulldozed and Native American protesters allegedly brutalized by private security officials.
On Thursday, and seemingly in direct response to the tribe’s restraining order filing, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple announced, in a press conference, that he would be activating the National Guard to help manage the situation at the Dakota Access Pipeline. As Daily Kos reports, the North Dakota governor didn’t seem concerned about protecting the hundreds of Native American protesters camped out near the pipeline; rather, his interests seemed to mirror those of the construction company and their private security officers.
The decision to activate the National Guard to assist at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest sites also comes just days before U.S. Judge James Boasberg is expected to make a significant ruling in the fight against the pipeline. A decision whether or not to require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw construction permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline project is expected by Friday.
Indeed, as RT reports, the National Guard is intended to serve an “administrative and assisting role” to the law enforcement department that has been overseeing both the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and the construction of the pipeline itself, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. According to the RT report, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department has been specifically tasked with making sure that the construction of the controversial pipeline moves along smoothly and peacefully.
Settlers/settler governments view Native bodies the same way they view the land & water. Disposable, unworthy of respect & open to violence— Frank Waln (@FrankWaln) September 6, 2016
Now the National Guard's been called in. Oh & incidentally North Dakota's the 1st state to approve use of armed drones by law enforcement.— Brooksita (@MahpiyaWaciWin) September 9, 2016
Not a very comforting position if you’re one of the hundreds of primarily Native American protesters that is actively living near and protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and especially after the events of last weekend.
According to protesters and other witnesses to Saturday’s clash between Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and hired private security guards, protesters were brutally attacked by members of the private security company when they showed up at the work site to protest the destruction of sacred sites. Rather than stop working or somehow bring the confrontation to a non-violent end, witnesses say that the security employees unleashed attack dogs, which bit multiple Dakota Access Pipeline protesters including small children.
The security employees guarding the Dakota Access Pipeline project then reportedly launched a chemical attack on the protesters by way of pepper spraying them. All in all, over 30 protesters say that they were subjected to dog bites and/or exposure to pepper spray in the altercation, which reportedly took place as Morton County Sheriff’s helicopters circled overhead.
To make matters worse, when law enforcement spoke out about the melee that took place between Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and the private security team, they said that they had no reports of injured protesters. This despite the apparent injuries sustained by some involved in the incident.
Because local law enforcement appears to be both tasked with the job of protecting the interests of Energy Transfer Partners and their Dakota Access Pipeline and willing to sweep injuries sustained by protesters at the hands of private security under the rug, many are very concerned about the governor’s decision to activate the state’s National Guard to aid local law enforcement.
Protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline and those activists following the situation are becoming more and more concerned that when the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline come to a head, the nation and protesters may be dealing with a Kent State-style nightmare.
The Kent State incident, also known as the Kent State Massacre, took place at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970. On that horrific afternoon, members of the National Guard opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters (and innocent bystanders) at the school, killing four and injuring nine more.
With hundreds of emotionally invested and frustrated protesters gathered near the Dakota Access Pipeline construction sites, the addition of the National Guard to the mix could turn a protest into a national disaster if things go south.
[Photo by James MacPherson/AP Images]