I haven't really gone into too much detail about the ongoing battle at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota over the Dakota Access oil pipeline because of the election, but this is a major civil rights battle that is happening right now in America that has been going on for weeks.
Tensions over the Dakota Access oil pipeline flared again Sunday when North Dakota law enforcement used water cannons to disperse a group of about 400 protesters trying to move past a barricaded bridge toward construction sites for the controversial project.
As temperatures in Cannon Ball, N.D., dropped into the 20s, police in riot gear sprayed anti-pipeline activists with a hose mounted on top of an armored vehicle and formed a line to prevent them from advancing up the road, according to the Bismarck Tribune. Protesters also reported being pelted with rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades during the standoff, which lasted until late Sunday night.
A grainy Facebook Live video from the scene shows throngs of people gathered around the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806, with flood lights shining down on the grass and road below, and a haze of smoke and water vapor rising near police vehicles.
The clashes began around 6 p.m., when protesters attempted to remove burned out trucks that had been blocking the bridge since authorities and activists faced off there in late October. Police have since set up wire and concrete barriers on the bridge, which is about a mile south of where the pipeline developer plans to drill.
Protesters, who call themselves “water protectors,” have argued that the barricade prevents emergency services from reaching the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and a nearby camp they have used as a staging ground for demonstrations.
Authorities responded after protesters moved one of the trucks blocking the roadway. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said that by 8:30 p.m. an estimated 400 people had arrived to try to “breach” the bridge and had set dozens of fires in the area. The department called the situation an “ongoing riot,” saying protesters were “very aggressive” and had attempted to “flank and attack the law enforcement line.” At least one person was arrested, the department said.
One of the protest organizers, Dallas Goldtooth, said protesters started small fires in the area to help warm people who had been sprayed with water in the freezing cold. He told the Tribune that some activists tried to remove the burned out trucks to expose the heavily-armed authorities behind them.
“Folks have a right to be on a public road,” Goldtooth said. “It’s absurd that people who’ve been trying to take down the barricade now have their lives at risk.”
Another organizer, Tara Houska, told the Tribune that more than 200 people had been hit with tear gas, pepper spray or water from the hose.
“They’re using everything and anything,” she said. “This has been weeks and weeks of those vehicles on the road for no apparent reason, and it’s a huge public safety risk. It’s putting enormous pressure on the Standing Rock Sioux community and people who live and work in the area.”
The water protectors of Standing Rock have been blocking pipeline construction for weeks now in order to save the reservation's water supply from the oil companies. I talk about Black Lives Matter a lot, but it's very easy to forget there are many marginalized groups in America and tribal groups are definitely fighting for basic human rights in this country on a daily basis. They are shot and killed and beaten by law enforcement as well.
Imagine if Flint's water crisis was made worse by dropping a pipeline through the middle of town and bulldozing houses and buildings around it while still doing nothing about the water supply, and you're starting to get the picture of what's going on in Standing Rock.
This is something President Obama needs to intervene in.