Hundreds of protesters from three tribes and their allies stopped construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline for the second day in a row Wednesday, but law enforcement and private security are now preparing to amp up their presence.
The Standing Rock, Rosebud and Lower Brule Lakota tribes have been resisting the pipeline since it was approved by the U.S. Senate in January and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, building sacred camps on the pipeline’s proposed path to pray, hold ceremonies on horseback and push back workers and police protecting the construction.
LaDonna Allard, whose property is the site of an indefinite spirit camp, told teleSUR in July that her son is buried on the proposed path, which is supposed to be protected burial grounds.
“This is not an Indian issue, this is a people’s issue,” she said. The US$3.8 million pipeline would cut beneath the Missouri River, a source of drinking water for thousands who live near its banks, and one of the largest aquifers in the world.
Native American activist Winona LaDuke wrote in a column that oil companies in North Dakota are known to use cheaper parts that are prone to breaking easily to cut costs. Tribal representatives have emphasized that it’s not a matter of if the pipe will break and endanger the local ecosystem, but when.
“You give them an inch, they take a mile,” said Olowan Sara Martinez of the American Indian Movement in a Facebook video. Many of the protesters have broadcast their messages on social media in an open call to other tribes to join in. “It’s in our history. We don’t wanna give them an inch. We don’t wanna give them a mile.”
Morton County deployed police, highway patrol and G4S personnel to dispel the gathering, reportedly bringing tear gas because of rumors that the protests were violent. The Indigenous Environmental Network said that all actions were peaceful and that participants were trained in nonviolent direct action tactics. Jennifer Baker, a lawyer for the Yankton Sioux tribe, told teleSUR in July that authorities are trying to break up the solidarity between tribes as a divide and conquer tactic.
Both sides took advantage of the pause in construction to regroup and strategize. The tribes hope to stall construction into winter to win an order to stop work altogether, but Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told a press conference Wednesday that they only shut down the highway and stopped construction to “be able to get control of the situation” and protect the workers and equipment from “unlawful protest.” He met with Standing Rock Sioux officials to discuss ways to de-escalate the confrontation, such as giving protesters more room to occupy.
Police have arrested 28 since last week, and a local resident wrote on Facebook that G4S is planning to provide backup security this weekend and that "it's supposed to get bad this weekend." G4S did not respond to requests from teleSUR for confirmation.
The developers of the pipeline won a restraining order Tuesday against the protesters, who erected another camp, reported Unicorn Riot. The Standing Rock tribe sued the Army Corps of Engineers for approving the construction permit, which they maintain is illegal because it threatens federally protected tribal land. The Dakota Access LLC retaliated by suing the tribe’s chairman, who was later arrested, for threatening construction workers.