An alternative media outlet covering the grassroots Indigenous struggle against the US$3.8 billion North Dakota pipeline project have accused Facebook of deliberately censoring "a critical moment of our coverage" as riot police cracked down on protesters.
Amid a visibly beefed up police presence, at least 20 grassroots and Indigenous activists were arrested and Unicorn Riot were on hand to livestream the "direct action" to their Facebook page, but were blocked from doing so by Facebook.
In comments made via email to RT, a member of the media outlet said their "collective members immediately noticed that the full Livestream event URL (https://livestream.com/unicornriot/events/6340986) was being blocked from Facebook.”
“Posts and comments with the URL both immediately triggered popup security alerts,” the unnamed member added.
“We tried putting the same URL through Bitly shortening and that official Unicorn Riot page post was deleted by Facebook within a few minutes. Finally we went with sharing our ‘Live Channel’ URL on our own website which had the embed included on it.”
According to the Unicorn Riot, the livestream was blocked because the "'Facebook Debugger’ warned that our live video URL violated ‘community standards.’”
Facebook have denied the charges, claiming the link was "removed in error." However, striking a defiant the tone the Unicorn Riot media actvisist told RT: "We will not let them stop our mission to amplify the voices of people who might otherwise go unheard, and broadcast the stories that might otherwise go untold.”
Meanwhile, the main opposition group, the Red Warrior Camp, said Wednesday via its Facebook page that journalists and medics were among those arrested by the riot police. Twitter photos from the Sacred Stone Camp showed at least two other protesters chaining arms and legs to bulldozers at the construction site.
The jailed protesters were unable to post bail because they were denied contact with Standing Rock Camp attorneys, the Red Warrior Camp reported. The Morton County Sheriff's Office claimed that the attorneys were not licensed to work in North Dakota.
Around 100 riot police were present at the site, armed with semi-automatic weapons, pointing their guns at the unarmed, self-proclaimed “water protectors.” Photos from activists at the site showed a line of law enforcement officers blocking people from entering the protest site.
Standing Rock protesters said that they would remain determined to “defend the land and water for as long as it takes.” The arrests and increasing militarization of the sites came as protesters across the U.S. took part in the #NoDAPL day of action.
Last Thursday, it was announced that the North Dakota National Guard would be on standby to assist local police to respond to the ongoing pipeline protests. At the time North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said that the National Guard would be used to “protect the constitutional rights of those who want to protest peacefully.”
The U.S. Department of Justice blocked work on a 40-mile section of the pipeline last Friday, but other sections of the 1,172-mile project are set to continue.
The company behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners LP, said it is committed to continuing construction. Many protesters say that the fight needs to continue against the whole project.Protesters say that the oil pipeline will destroy the environment and Native American sacred sites, as well as polluting and diminishing water supplies.