The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is an underground pipeline currently being constructed that’s designed to be 30 inches in diameter and span the length of 1,134 miles. The DAPL, which would be capable of transporting 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day and is slated to be done by 2017, begins at the Northwest region of North Dakota and run all the way through to Southeast Illinois, from the Bakken oil fields near the Canadian border to an oil tank farm near Pakota. It is believed that the Bakken oil fields contain 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, and the project developer, Dakota Access, says creating the pipeline will make the United States less dependent on the unstable regions in the Middle East.
Along its route, the pipeline passes just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation which covers about 3,500 square miles. The Standing Rock Sioux, a federally recognized Indian tribe, have expressed opposition to the DAPL, saying that the new underground construction would damage the tribe’s natural resources and leak oil into their drinking water. The original proposed route had the pipeline further north, above the city of Bismarck, but the Army Corps of Engineers altered the path to run south of Bismarck and just a half a mile above the reservation.
“The construction and operation of the pipeline … threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe,” the Standing Rock Tribe said in a complaint filed in federal court against the Army Corps of Engineers. A nonprofit environmental law firm called “Earthjustice” represented the Tribe as they asked for an injunction.
On April 1st 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux founded the “Sacred Stone Camp” in protest of the construction. Founded by its Historic Preservation Officer, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the group says the camp is a center for their cultivation preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline. The Standing Rock Tribe began reaching out to media sources and the coverage of the protest started drawing in thousands of supporters from across the country and around the world to join the Sioux group in their efforts.
However, reports of the once peaceful demonstration on the farmlands of North Dakota began turning increasingly more violent, as protestors started clashing with law enforcement as well as the citizens that live in the surrounding towns. Just days before Thanksgiving, a group of about 400 demonstrators set fire to two police trucks on a bridge, forcing law enforcement to defend the area with water (that was being used to put out the fire) and tear gas.
The Morton County Police have released a video sharing their side of the altercations:
“Well the end goal is to just get the information out from the law enforcement perspective and actually what we are doing and what we are trying to accomplish. And number one has always been public safety and the safety for everybody involved,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.
In addition to the larger demonstrations, protestors have reportedly started harassing pipeline workers and those who they believed supported the pipeline project, vandalizing their property and threatening their safety.
In one instance, a local business owner was on his way home from work when a group of protestors wrongly identified him as a DAPL worker. They jumped his vehicle, threw rocks at his tires, and stole equipment out of the back of his truck. You can watch the altercation below:
Situations like the one above have been plaguing the citizens of the city Bismarck, who say vehicles with “No DAPL” spray painted on the side drive around and harass the community. American Military News spoke to multiple people in the Bismarck community who report anti-DAPL personnel have been hassling them as they go about their day.
“I’ve been approached multiple times and asked if I stand with Standing Rock,” a resident who works for the city of Bismarck who wished to remain anonymous told American Military News, “and if I tell them ‘I’m not answering your questions, I have no opinion in this,’ then they will try to follow you around the store, they’ll harass you, they’ll cuss you,” she continued.
“I’ve been called a piggy lover, I’ve been snorted at, I was taking phone calls from people from Sweden, from Canada, from all over the place,” she said.
“You can’t go anywhere without seeing their vehicle,” the Bismarck city employee continued. “If you don’t take their side and you try to tell them ‘no, this is why I don’t agree with this,’ then they instantly just take the defensive that you’re against them and they will follow you and basically stalk you.”
“They are not peaceful at all,” she continued.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have told all members of the tribe as well as outside protestors they must evacuate the area for safety reasons by December 5. A group of Veterans calling themselves “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” have announced they will join the fight against the pipeline and stand in solidarity and protection of the protestors, calling themselves “human shields” for the Tribe and it’s supporters.
American Military News will continue to cover these story and report developments as they rise.