Following the activation of the North Dakota National Guard on September 8, peaceful Dakota Access Pipeline protests quickly became flooded with militarized law enforcement. Native American activists, or “water protectors,” have been standing in the way of the pipeline’s construction for months, successfully blocking it at the Sacred Stone camp near the Missouri River.
When the situation initially took a turn for the worse earlier this month, journalists on the ground who were broadcasting live video complained Facebook was blocking their streams. Now, videos and images from Wednesday are emerging that show an overwhelmingly militarized response to the peaceful prayer and protest.
In the video, law enforcement can be seen using armored vehicles (MRAPs), shotguns, assault rifles, riot gear, tear gas, and helicopters to disperse the protesters. The police have turned peaceful prayers and acts of civil disobedience into a what now resembles a war zone. The Morton County Sheriff’s department confirmed to Anti-Media that 21 water protectors were arrested Wednesday. Several water protectors at the scene said a plane was used to drop tear gas — or some other form of crowd dispersants — on the group, though the Morton County Sheriff’s department has deniedthese allegations.
The protests are rooted in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s concerns that the Dakota Access Pipeline would pollute the area’s water supply and violate tribal treaties. Hundreds of Native American tribes have joined the blockade in solidarity. Landowners also joined the ongoing demonstrations after their land was seized through eminent domain to build the pipeline.
The protests received mainstream news coverage after the Department of Justice ordered a halt to construction on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. However, construction continues outside that area, and protests are growing more frequent and direct.