Self-proclaimed ‘water protectors’ are still fighting against federal government and state police forces to protect their land from the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, which was originally projected to be completed at the end of 2016, is designed to transport over 470,000 barrels of crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks formation in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.
Hennepin County involvement
On Oct. 23, deputies from the Hennepin, Anoka, and Washington County (along with forces from 5 other states) sheriff’s offices were deployed to North Dakota in response to the state’s request for assistance.
This request was under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which was written into law to allow states to share emergency management workers.
“Morton county basically called for more police to go out there. Like a plea to all the surrounding states,” said Cody Raisch, Vice President of the UNITE club at MCTC.
On Oct 25, protesters showed up at Minneapolis City Hall to resist against Hennepin County’s involvement, echoing similar messages seen at the Standing Rock Camp. “Water is life” was plastered on signs throughout the rally.
Students from South High School staged a walk out on Oct 28 to show solidarity with the resistance against the pipeline.
“You see all these pictures of riot police and all these people are getting shot with rubber bullets or maced in the face and you’re like these are the cops- these are our cops- and they’re there right now.” said Raisch.
Minneapolis Sheriff Rick Stanek stated during a meeting on Oct. 31 that his 30 deputies had fulfilled their duties and were returning back to Minnesota.
Thousands of people have gathered alongside the Sioux Tribe at the Standing Rock camp in opposition of the pipeline. The smell of sage permeates the air as many prayer groups organize throughout the camp and behind the front line, according to Honor Lamonte, a student in UNITE who had the chance to visit the camp.
“You can really feel the spirituality there,” said Lamonte.
UNITE (in conjunction with the Students Against Hunger and Homelessness) is putting bins around campus and urges students to donate what they can to help the activists remain steadfast through the winter, things such as blankets, socks, hygiene products, and other winter gear.
This is a practice taking place at many other schools in the area, including Minnesota State University and North Hennepin Community College.
Federal Government involvement
In September, the U.S. Government halted construction on the line due to resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists citing a violation of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, according to Reuters.
Private security guards hired by the pipeline were dispatched on Sept. 3, when the clashes began.
On Sept. 9, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and Department of the Army requested that the pipeline company voluntarily stop construction in an official statement.
“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”
Continuously throughout the next two months, local law enforcement agents fought against the activists and arrested over 400 people. Tribal leaders called on the U.S. Attorney General for an investigation into a breach of civil rights, citing the excessive militarization of the police on the scene. The FAA also announced a no-fly zone around the Standing Rock Camp, where the activists were using drones to monitor police behavior. This restriction does not apply to law enforcement.
Much of the activities of activists at Standing Rock have been surveilled and communications to the outside have purportedly been interfered with, with cell phone communications being jammed, as well as recorded and tracked.
“I think it’s the right time for all people of color, for Native people, to get their voices heard. Especially in this day and age with social media…I definitely hope for the indigenous voice to be heard,” said Raisch.