Unprovoked Police Arrest Over 100 Peaceful, Unarmed Water Protectors in North Dakota
Sheriff deputies of the Morton County Sheriff’s Department forcibly removed (by arresting) over 100 peaceful water protectors from their land. The crowd gathered in the Standing Rock Reservation of North Dakota as they’ve done for the past several months. Yet on Thursday these protectors were met with an unprovoked escalated use of force. To disperse the crowd, the police used several tactics discouraged by the United Nations, including: sound cannons, pepper spray, and shooting beanbags into crowds.
Protectors are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will carry oil fracked from Bakken oil fields to Illinois after traveling through indigenous land in North Dakota. Most importantly, the Dakota Access Pipeline has a dangerous path including traveling under the Missouri River in order to transport this highly flammable oil. The protectors are concerned with the risk of contamination to a major waterway and the general future of their land.
After Thursday’s clash with overly aggressive deputies, the total number of people arrested in connection to the pipeline protests reached 386.
In the U.S. law enforcement has free range to escalate situations without a threat of punishment. This results in excessive force by police becoming a national pastime due to its regularity. With a seldom-achieved aim of “protecting and serving,” members of law enforcement tend to use the appearance of large-scale suppression tactics to control crowds. Problems arise when law enforcement escalate their conduct in order to obstruct rather than just observe. A statement released by the Morton County Sheriff's Department states, “authorities began taking steps to remove the illegal roadblocks and protesters trespassing on private property.” However, the sheriff’s department does not acknowledge that the “private land” in question was originally granted to indigenous people in a ratified 1851 treaty.
Stay tuned as more information becomes available.