Signs protesting the pipeline adorn a camp in North Dakota. (Joe Brusky / CC 2.0)
Demonstrators and law enforcement officials continued to clash over the weekend at the construction site of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. At least 127 protesters were arrested, and those involved alleged that the police used mace and other extreme tactics.
KCII Des Moines explained what occurred during the first round of protests Saturday:
The activists, who call themselves “water protectors,” said they were staging a peaceful procession in honor of sacred sites already destroyed in construction. They accused law enforcement of spraying them with Mace and throwing people to the ground “without provocation” as they attempted to leave, according to a joint statement from three groups.
The demonstrations continued Sunday as activists set up road blocks on Highway 1806, leading to its closure for several hours. Organizers said they were taking back land based on treaty rights for a camp. The highway later reopened after protesters removed a blockade, officials said.
On Sunday, the AP reported that police shot down a drone used by protesters to film police activity:
A helicopter helping monitor a protest against the four-state pipeline Sunday morning was approached by a drone in a “threatening manner,” the Morton County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. An officer in the helicopter told law enforcement on the ground that the pilot and passengers were “in fear of their lives” and that the unmanned aircraft was going after them. Less-than-lethal ammunition damaged the drone, which was then landed by its operator.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said drones flying near protests and near where hundreds have been camping out in protest of the $3.8 billion pipeline are not being operated according to federal regulations and their investigations will be sent to the states attorney’s office for possible charges. Two people operating drones during the protests have already been charged.
ABC World News Now shared video footage of the incident on Twitter:
DAKOTA PIPELINE PROTEST: Police opened fire on a drone during a protest over the proposed North Dakota pipeline. pic.twitter.com/baRuJKtefB
— ABC World News Now (@abcWNN) October 24, 2016
This escalation of conflict comes after several notable figures have brought increased attention to the DAPL demonstrations. Journalist Amy Goodman faced “riot charges” for documenting the protests, although the charges were dismissed last week after Goodman turned herself in to police. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department also issued arrest warrants for Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, in September.
As is often the case with underreported political events, it took a celebrity arrest to draw media attention to the situation in North Dakota. Actress Shailene Woodley was arrested on Oct. 10 and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot. She shared live video of the demonstration and her arrest with her followers on Facebook.
Her arrest brought widespread social-media awareness to the situation and prompted coverage by numerous outlets—including entertainment publications such as Teen Vogue, People, E! Online and even TMZ.
Woodley has since pleaded not guilty and has written about the lack of mainstream media coverage of the protests in a Time magazine piece:
Treaties are broken. Land is stolen. Dams are built. Reservations are flooded. People are displaced.
Yet we fail to notice. We fail to acknowledge. We fail to act.
So much so that it took me, a white non-native woman being arrested on Oct 10th in North Dakota, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to bring this cause to many people’s attention. And to the forefront of news publications around the world.
The day I was detained, 26 others had to dress in orange as well, as they were booked into the Morton County jail. Did you hear about them? …
I appreciate all of you out there who supported me while I was arrested. I am humbled and grateful for your love, your prayers and your hashtags.
And what could it look like if we learned from this instance, where it took myself getting detained to raise awareness about Native Americans? What if we used it as a catalyst for a full societal shift in the way we start thinking and treating and learning from indigenous peoples? So that in the future, it doesn’t require a non-native celebrity to bring attention to the cause.
“The intimidation by militarized police in riot gear and unlawful arrests are an attack on the First Amendment rights of the protectors, and we again ask the Department of Justice to send observers to the area to ensure that constitutional rights are protected,” said Standing Rock Chairman Paul Archambault of the spate of arrests over the weekend. “Police are also routinely strip searching protesters, even when they have only been charged with a misdemeanor offense. Like days of old, this is a thinly veiled attempt to dehumanize and degrade Native people. Thousands of people have come to Standing Rock in prayerful protest of the pipeline and millions more support the Tribe in our efforts to protect our sacred places and water.”
—Posted by Emma Niles