On 27 October around midday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, officers deployed from other states, and the National Guard, descended upon protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline, North Dakota.
Peaceful water protectors were subjected to the use of sonic guns, pepper spray, and the threat of automatic weapons. This latest action follows prior militarized police actions, including a Labour Day incident involving the use of attack dogs, pepper spray, and unlicensed security contractors hired by Dakota Access, LLC.
North Dakota’s Morton County Sheriff’s office said the operation is in response to “illegal roadblocks and protesters trespassing on private property near Highway 1806.”
Protesters had used fences, hay bales and buses to form a blockade on highway 1806 in response to a police barricade earlier in the week.
Standing Rock resident, Frank Bull Head says, “We said enough is enough, it’s our turn to put up a blockade if they want to do that to us. So it’s kind of like a chess game, so that’s why they’re doing this. We’re sick and tired of being pushed on. The government don’t have to answer to nobody. They forgot about our treaties.”
It’s going to get ugly…They’re watching. Helicopters, planes and I don’t know what the outcome of this will be but I know it ain’t gonna be good for us. But we’re gonna fight.”
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier expressed outrage at reported violations of his people’s civil liberties, which comes just two days after president Obama assured him during a face to face meeting that federal monitors were in place to prevent such actions. Frazier asked the United Nations for immediate intervention, saying, “The U.S. government promised to protect us through treaties, but they have failed us. That’s why we are asking the United Nations to send troops to protect our people from the brutalities inflicted on our people by State police and the National Guard.” He added, “Native Nations originally came into the United State through treaties and if the United States is not going to honor these treaties the Native Nations need to call on the United Nations for assistance.”
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal member and attorney for the Tribe, Nicole Ducheneaux, commented on the raid. “This militarized action against peaceably assembled, unarmed American citizens is unconscionable.”
October 22 saw the most arrests in any one day, with a total of 126 people taken into custody during a demonstration.
Freelance Videographer, Peter Pawlowski says, “You have this aggressor who is coming after them with no consideration of culture, no consideration of legal law. And to see that as my protector of my nationality, it’s shameful.”
Frazier has also formally requested the intervention of United Nations peacekeepers.
In a statement, he said, “Today the assault on my people has escalated to an absolutely intolerable scale. National Guard troops armed with military weapons have been called out against these unarmed protestors to terrorize, intimidate, and infringe their exercise of their right to peaceably assemble for redress against the government.
For these reasons, I humbly call upon you, the United Nations, to provide emergency UN Peacekeeping troops to prevent a humanitarian disaster in North Dakota, United States today.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and many other tribes and supporters have spent months attempting to block construction of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipe. They believe the environmental threats it poses and the obligation to consult with the indigenous people have been ignored in the process.
If completed, the pipeline would transport up to 500,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day across the country to Illinois. It would pass under the Missouri River which is the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and millions of others in the region.
Opponents to the pipeline claim sacred sites have already been destroyed by Dakota Access Pipeline works and are seeking to halt construction altogether.