Police in North Dakota arrested 76 people at the Standing Rock protest camp on February 1 as the Army Corp of Engineers cleared the way to continue construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) through Native American land.
The US$3.78 billion DAPL project involves building a 1886-kilometre long pipeline to shift almost half-a-million barrels of oil a day. Its route passes through Native American land on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, threatening water supplies and sacred sites.
Last year, First Nations water protectors set up protest camps at Standing Rock to block pipeline construction. Amid growing protests, the Obama administration blocked approval of the pipeline’s current path. However, one of President Donald Trump’s first actions was to rescind Obama’s order.
Water protectors had set up a new camp — the Last Child Camp — and lit a sacred fire near where construction is expected to begin. They vowed to stop the pipeline, which violates the sovereign treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and threatens to contaminate the water supply for millions of North Dakota residents.
Armed police used bulldozers and sound cannons to destroy the camp, put out the sacred fire, and carry out the arrests. Morton County sheriff's office spokesperson Rob Keller said it was too soon to say what charges the protesters would face.
“A lot of water protectors really felt that we needed to make some sort of stand as far as treaty rights,” Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation, told The Guardian. “We basically started to see police mobilising from all directions. Someone came along and told us we had about 15 minutes before the camp would get raided.
“There were a lot of people who felt like the prospect of treaty rights was something worth getting arrested over.”
One of those arrested was prominent Lakota activist and lawyer Chase Iron Eyes, who has played a key leadership role in the resistance.
The raids came after Major General Malcolm Frost, US Army chief of public affairs, said that the government was acting on Trump’s order “to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access pipeline compliance with the law”.
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]