The rhetoric used by protesters on Facebook and other social media profiles shows the divides between not only the protesters and police, but also between the protest camp and the Standing Rock Tribe itself. In the past several weeks, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault has taken steps to repair relationships with state officials. That goal is not shared by protesters at the camp, who continue to violate a de-escalation agreement between police and the tribe.
Altercations continued throughout the week on Backwater Bridge, just outside of the protest camp. The bridge has been closed since October, when police pushed protesters off of private land. In January, the tribe reached an agreement with area law enforcement. Both sides agreed to withdraw from the bridge and law enforcement agreed not to continually staff the barricade, hoping that the agreement would reduce the number of altercations between police and protesters, a necessary step to the reopening of the bridge. However, many at the protest camp have been uncooperative.
Wednesday marked the third consecutive night of provocative protest activity. Twenty-one people were arrested. From Monday through Tuesday night, an additional 14 people were arrested near the drill site and on the bridge, making the week one of the most contentious of the new year.
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Ret. Major General James “Spider” Marks issued the following statement Saturday in response to reports that a number of veterans will be traveling to North Dakota next week to join protesters opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline:
“As people, including some veterans, are traveling to North Dakota this weekend, I would urge all sides to respect and honor our shared military service. Veterans are represented throughout local law enforcement, among pipeline construction workers, as well as the protesters. All of us, no doubt, have lost friends or colleagues and spilled our own blood to protect the American freedoms that we all cherish.
“I am concerned that the protests have grown, and will continue to grow, more violent and targeted against law enforcement and pipeline construction personnel and equipment. We all respect the right to be heard, but I implore all protesters to demonstrate in a peaceful and lawful manner. As brother and sister veterans, we should respect each other and our shared sacrifice.”
In a letter sent on November 23rd to President Obama, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer, and Governor Jack Dalrymple called on the White House to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to issue the final easement needed to complete the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline project and provide federal resources to assist with ongoing protests.
“We call on you again to direct the Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to approve, without further delay, the final federal easement for the Lake Oahe crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Further, in the strongest terms possible, we recommend you provide federal law enforcement resources immediately to state and local agencies in order to maintain public safety, which has been threatened by ongoing – and oftentimes violent – protest activity. These resources are essential to prevent further destruction on and surrounding federal lands.”
North Dakota’s top elected officials went on to highlight that construction of the pipeline is now over 86 percent and has undergone extensive state and federal regulatory reviews over the past two and a half years. Furthermore, they note that two federal courts have ruled in favor of letting the project proceed.
“Twice challenged and twice upheld – including by your own appointees – federal courts found that the Army Corps had followed the appropriate process, the tribe was properly consulted and the project could lawfully proceed. As a former Constitutional law professor you certainly understand there is no legal reason to withhold this easement.”
The letter comes as protesters resort to increasingly dangerous and violent tactics to harm law enforcement officers, trespass on private property, and obstruct construction of the pipeline. President Obama’s decision to “let it play out” my be politically convenient in Washington, but in North Dakota, the administration’s refusal to follow and enforce the rule of law has left entire communities on edge.
Law enforcement officers and activated guardsmen from across North Dakota deserve a great deal of thanks as unlawful protests continue against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
They aren’t part of either side of the debate, yet they have been the most impacted by the two months of turmoil in southern Morton County.
They should know how much we appreciate and respect their efforts. Law enforcement officers from other communities still meet the needs of their hometowns and both they and their families sacrifice when they help in Morton County. Similarly, guardsmen have left jobs and families too, and their employers deserve our thanks too. Those who live in Morton and Burleigh counties face the extra hours, dangers of policing, and the extra concern for their families living nearby.
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An increasing number of North Dakota residents are speaking out against the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline protests that continue to wreak havoc on otherwise peaceful communities. Flip to the opinion section of any Bismarck-area newspaper and it becomes abundantly clear that readers are tired of the chaos and tired of being ignored by the media.
“Fairy tales are alive and well in North Dakota,” wrote Jeremy Finch in a letter to the editor posted by the Grand Forks Herald. “Despite the facts, some media outlets spun the narrative into the realm of make believe,” he added.
Finch also pointed out that even members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, including Robert Fool Bear Sr., district chairman of Cannon Ball, are speaking out against the protest. “[Fool Bear] not only asks that “protesters go home” but criticizes the tribal chairman for refusing to demand this departure,” Finch wrote.
In a separate letter published by the Bismarck Tribune, reader Ray Daly scolded religious leaders for ignoring the reality on the ground and instead smearing local enforcement. “If you do not wish to practice what Scripture says, then that is your choice,” he wrote. “But, please do the citizens of North Dakota one big favor. Stop slapping our law enforcement agencies across the face. They do not deserve it.”
All of this comes as protesters admitted to the Williston Herald that grass fires were intentionally set as in an effort to obstruct authorities. The Herald also noted the little regard out-of-state activists have shown for farmers and ranchers who rely on their land to make a living.
“Many protesters have rallied around care of the environment, and it’s frustrating to us in the agriculture community when we look at how many examples of their activities have been anything but respectful of the environment,” said Julia Ellingson, vice president of the North Dakota Stockman’s Association.
In Morton County, North Dakota, law enforcement is putting their lives on the line to provide public safety, enforce the rule of law, and protect protesters who exercise their First Amendment rights in a peaceful and prayerful way.
They have been called to action in response to large-scale unrest over a proposed pipeline that is to be built on what protesters believe is sacred Native American land. The Dakota Access Pipeline, which is already more than two-thirds completed, is a $3.7 billion project that would create between 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs and would transport oil from North Dakota to southern Illinois. In August, protests by Native American groups halted construction, but only temporarily. Today, work continues on all private land up to the Missouri River despite the Obama administration requesting the company in charge to voluntarily hold construction.
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A recent editorial published by the Grand Forks Herald exposes the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s tactics used to spread falsities about law enforcement and strengthen unity for their cause.
More recently, it’s clear that some protesters still want a villain to rally against. Some of their actions even seem designed to bring back the spectre of King George III and his Redcoats. Setting barricades on fire, charging police while on horseback and resisting arrest all look like efforts to make police use force. Then the idea is to put video that force on social media, where it’s likely to make police look bad.
Law enforcement has demonstrated a highly professional, restrained response to the increasingly violent anti-pipeline protesters. Authorities have been able to effectively handle a delicate situation without overreacting and playing into the hands of law breakers.
Thanks to this restraint, which comes at real risk to the officers’ safety, North Dakota officials credibly can refute protesters’ wilder claims. Arrestees were kept in “dog kennels”? No, they were held for hours—not days—in indoor chain-link-fence enclosures, simply because the local jails are full. Suspects had numbers inked on their arms, “like in concentration camps”? No; a mark from a pen is not a tattoo, and wanting to link people with their possessions—stored separately in numbered plastic bags—is a world away from genocide.
The Grand Forks Herald hit the nail on the head with this thoughtful analysis. Law enforcement have deserve both our respect and gratitude maintain order in a hostile environment.
In an editorial published today, the Bismarck Tribune supported the actions of law enforcement to remove protesters from private land, and to clear a roadblock from a public highway. According to the paper, “there were obvious violations of the law.”
The paper also correctly characterized the operation to remove protesters following their failure to comply with police orders to withdraw from private property; “To the outside world it may have appeared like a military operation, but law enforcement needed to protect themselves. Overall, the operation went smoothly with no serious injuries. It’s unfortunate the situation came to this, but some of the protesters refused to back off.”
This has been the case for several months now in North Dakota. Protesters have encouraged law enforcement to arrest them by failing to comply with instructions to come down off of equipment, to not cross fence lines onto private property, and to maintain a safe distance from public roads. Protesters often have failed to comply and put public safety and the safety of workers in jeopardy which has led to arrests. To then claim that they have been treated unfairly is a gross mischaracterization of police operations, which have taken place only to ensure the rule of law and public safety.
Physical resistance to law enforcement is mounting, and it has begun to divide the protest camps according to the Tribune, “There seems to be some discontent in the camps with dissatisfaction growing over the more militant factions. Some would like to see them evicted. Part of the problem is the reluctance of the protesters to admit to any wrong. They don’t want to concede that law enforcement encountered resistance, not just verbal but physical. During Thursday’s removal of protesters, Tribune video captured protesters arguing over tactics. One was trying to put out a fire while encouraging others to retreat. Another urged protesters to stand their ground and force the issue. He wasn’t seeking a prayerful response.”
Law enforcement has put themselves on the front lines to protect the community, and to ensure the safety of the public amid the increasingly violent protests. It is encouraging to see media like the Bismarck Tribune come out in defense of law enforcement, when so many other outlets appear only to be interested in telling the story from the side of protesters who continue to mischaracterize their own actions as peaceful, when they have only incited violence and lawlessness.