Despite several days of unrest which included arrests by law enforcement of over 100 demonstrators known as “water protectors” at Standing Rock, those camped out in tents and teepees with supporters continue their resolve and efforts to protect land and water from construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL).
According to several reports, there have been claims of excessive force by law enforcement and abusive treatment in jails of those arrested. However, demonstrations continue with activists stating they will continue camping out near the proposed pipeline site until the project is permanently halted. Local police as well as the National Guard and police from several other states have been deployed to the area.
According to the UK-based publication the Guardian, native leaders camped out in the cold there said they have grown increasingly concerned that time is running out to stop the project on the ground. Pipeline workers, they say, are getting frighteningly close to the sacred water of the Missouri river.
In North Dakota, hundreds of Standing Rock Sioux tribal members and their supporters have held a campaign since April to protest the $3.8 billion pipeline, which would skirt the reservation’s northern border. The tribe says the 1,200-mile pipeline will damage its water supply and endanger sacred sites. Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners is building the conduit from western North Dakota to Illinois, and state officials say no sensitive cultural sites have been found on the route. Protesters have long argued that the pipeline—which would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil from the Bakken oil field to a refinery near Chicago—poses a major threat to the water supply and is destroying sacred Native lands.
Energy Transfer Partners insists the project is safe. The tribe is fighting the pipeline’s permitting process in federal court.
The Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border, are suing federal regulators for approving the oil pipeline. They have challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings and argue that the pipeline would be placed less than a mile upstream of the reservation, potentially affecting drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members and millions downstream. The tribe alleges they were not adequately consulted on the project until after construction started.
A federal judge in September denied their request to block construction of the entire pipeline. Three federal agencies stepped in and ordered a temporary halt to construction on corps land around and underneath Lake Oahe—one of six reservoirs on the Missouri River.
The corps is reviewing its permitting of the project and has given no timetable for a decision. Meanwhile, the tribe’s appeal is still pending in federal court. In the meantime, protests continue even as winter and cold temperatures are on the horizon.
“The demonstrations, which have grown into a national symbol of indigenous rights and climate change activism, have resulted in more than 400 arrests, with local law enforcement accusing Native American activists, journalists and filmmakers of rioting, trespassing, resisting arrest and a number of other serious felony charges,” the Guardian reported.
Tensions grew Oct. 27 when police began physically and by force, removing demonstrators.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault called the action “violence against innocent, prayerful people.” He has also called for a re-routing of the pipeline, reported The Associated Press.
Video footage which has gone viral, shows the presence of military tanks and law enforcement donning combat gear and militarized weaponry face to face with unarmed protestors, who prefer to be known as “water protectors.” In one video, law enforcement officers appear to use pepper spray on demonstrators.