A federal judge temporarily halted construction Tuesday on some, but not all, of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline slated to pass through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The Dakota Access Pipeline has been met with resistance by Native American tribes who say they will be affected by the pipeline’s close proximity to their sacred sites and water supplies. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe took its complaint a step further, suing the federal agency responsible for the construction.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said Tuesday that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota’s State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe. However, it will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which approved the pipeline, lacks jurisdiction on private land.
A decision is expected by the end of Friday on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s challenge of federal regulators’ decision to grant permits to Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based operators of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
A video from news site Democracy Now! released on Sunday shows native protesters and allies confronting construction workers and their security forces. The protesters chanted “We’re not leaving!” and marched on the property, where construction workers had already begun to bulldoze.
The video shows security guards pepper spraying protesters and security dogs attacking them. Medics confirmed that six people were bitten by dogs. Around 30 people were pepper sprayed. Of those, only 12 were treated.
When asked by a reporter from Democracy Now! what he had sprayed, a construction worker replied, “I haven’t sprayed anything.”
A spokesperson from Energy Transfer Partners, Vicki Granado, placed the blame for the violence on the protesters.
“It is unfortunate that what has been portrayed as a peaceful protest by the opponents of the pipeline has now turned to violence and intimidation by a group of criminals and activists,” Granado said in a statement. “Assailants broke through a fence and attacked our workers. We are working with law enforcement to ensure that all offenders are arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will not tolerate the assault and/or injury to our employees or contractors. The safety of all those associated with our project and those living in the area is our top priority.”
It is worth noting, however, that the protesters did not bring security guards. The protesters did not use pepper spray; the protesters did not use attack dogs. These were all means employed by Energy Transfer Partners, the same organization that then tried to turn the tables and make the protesters, who are only concerned about the safety afforded to them by clean drinking water and the preservation of their historically-corrupted land, appear to be in the wrong. Unfortunately, this is a tried-and-true tactic of silencing opposition.
A number of people and publications, including media site Common Dreams, are calling on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to speak up in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is the only candidate who has been vocal. In fact, she spray-painted construction equipment at a protest Tuesday, tagging a bulldozer with the words, “I approve this message.” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said she would be charged with vandalism.
In a country where Native Americans have been historically oppressed – in clearer words, systematically killed and herded onto small reservations over the past several hundred years – it is appalling that a candidate and a president who both consider themselves progressive would be silent on this issue. Hundreds of indigenous Americans have gathered in protest of this project; why don’t they have the support of their government? Obama, the same president who struck down the Keystone XL pipeline, now stands in silent shame.
Where our government fails, it is our responsibility as engaged citizens to speak up. Where our mainstream media fails to report on subjects like these, as most have over the past couple of months, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves from independent news sources and people on the ground. We are on the cusp of failing the indigenous people of America again – and we cannot let that happen.
The Free Thought Project lists 10 ways we can help fight the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Here are a few:
- Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200.
- Sign the petition to the White House to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- Donate to support the Standing Rock Sioux.
- Donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List.
- Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund.
- Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp GoFundMe account.
Photo courtesy Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons