On Columbus Day: A Tense and Militarized Standoff Continues at Standing Rock

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Solidarity rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline / Fibonacci Blue

October 7, 2016; Indian Country

Yesterday, the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia issued a ruling that denied a permanent injunction on the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The construction will remain halted until the federal government grants an easement needed for the work to continue. Meanwhile, Indian Country Today Media Network describes a highly militarized and tense scene at the site of the halted construction. The encampment, which is aimed at protecting the land, has attracted environmental activists from many tribes—numbers have grown as high as 4000. At the same time, the degree of militarization of the police force around the site is growing, after North Dakota’s governor, Jack Dalrymple, declared a state of emergency a month ago, calling out the National Guard. At the time, Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, commented to the governor:

You are not George Wallace, and this is not Alabama. You do not have the right to block roads, deny people water, attack people with dogs, or deploy military forces on a peaceful prayerful encampment. We are done being treated like second-class citizens.

Dalrymple says he is just protecting the public, but what the public is actually being protected from still remains vague and, as this report describes it, “fueled by speculation, rumors and fear of the unknown.”

“These are not formal reports,” the deputy wrote of the alleged crimes. “Locals are not willing to give their identify for fear of retaliation.” Instead he provided a document describing examples of intimidation as gathered by “a Morton Country Deputy who is making visits with area residents.” Complaints included reports of stolen hay, cut fences, blocked roads and fear of going out alone on the roads.

Despite the lack of substantiated reports, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has asked for help in policing from the National Sheriff’s Association, a move that, according to the Association’s past president Danny Glick, is unprecedented.

“When we get a call from Sheriff Kirchmeier, we will be ready to assist,” said Sheriff Glick of the Laramie County, Wyoming, sheriff’s department, to the Bismarck Tribune.

Law enforcement is collecting information from each vehicle that passes the checkpoint and compiling it in a database, according to Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. Furthermore, the protectors are covering their faces to avoid facial recognition technology that could lead to being hit with criminal trespass charges. Helicopters and planes fly constantly overhead.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, has declared that it will not evict the protesters. Instead, the Corps has granted them a special use permit so they can exercise their First Amendment rights.—Ruth McCambridge