North Dakota issued an emergency declaration following protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline that have mobilized an estimated 1,500 protesters, many of them Native American, to stop construction. Meanwhile, the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota will file formal complaints for obstructing free movement.
Governor Jack Dalrymple authorized the executive order Friday evening due to “significant public safety concern,” following a statement by the Morton County sheriff that the protests are “unlawful” and that some occupiers are rumored to be armed.
The protesters, who come from several tribes and environmental groups, insist their actions are peaceful and are meant to target the project, not law enforcement. Media speculation about any violence, they said, is unsubstantiated. The pipeline’s developer already won a restraining order against the protesters earlier this week.
The emergency declaration would let Dalrymple request additional funding for law enforcement but would not involve the National Guard, according to KFYR TV. The county has already deployed highway patrol, police and private security and is expected to deploy more this weekend.
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The Oglala Lakota Nation will file their complaint with the Department of Justice and the U.N. Commission of Human Rights after they said that members were stopped from leaving their reservation on suspicion that they would attend the protests, reported the Bismarck Tribune.
“The Strong Heart Warrior Society condemns these traffic checkpoints and any interference of the rights of way of Lakota persons from traveling across their traditional lands for any purpose. South Dakota is Lakota territory under natural law, international law and treaty law. The state of South Dakota and the United States government are in violation of these legal covenants and mass stops of Native persons is criminalization without due process, racial profiling and illegal. These stops must end now,“ said Strong Heart Warrior Society spokesman Canupa Gluha.
Construction was halted after protesters blocked a major highway, but the project has already been approved— illegally, say the Lakota and Yankton Sioux tribes—and is expected to resume construction after officials restrategize on how to “be able to get control of the situation,” said the sheriff.
The pipeline, which would cross four states, a major river and aquifer and sacred ceremonial and burial grounds, has been compared to the Keystone XL Pipeline for its potentially disastrous environmental effects.