STANDING ROCK RESERVATION, North Dakota — In response to the fast pace of pipeline construction and mounting pressure from an increasingly violent police presence, activists opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline are expanding their efforts to block construction in North Dakota.
More than 125 “water protectors” were arrested over the weekend during multiple nonviolent direct actions aimed at halting construction of the 1,100-mile pipeline which is slated to run through four states.
Armored riot police attacked a march on Saturday with tear gas and arrested 83 people on charges ranging from assault on a peace officer to rioting and criminal trespass. Police also shot down two camera drones operated by Native American journalists.
Activists report that harassment, strip searches and beatings at the hands of North Dakota police are becoming commonplace, but the assembled tribes remain determined to block the pipeline, which they say threatens both sacred lands and the water supply for millions of people.
“From what we’re hearing, Energy Transfer Partners and the other companies behind the pipeline want to complete construction by the end of the month,” independent journalist Derrick Broze told MintPress.
Broze added: “They also want to remove the water protectors and force them out of the camps.”
With construction nearing completion in North Dakota, the water protectors expanded to two new campsites on Sunday in order to more directly confront pipeline builders, police, and private security personnel.
One encampment, which activists are calling “Frontlines Camp,” is being built on land claimed by Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation building the pipeline. It is close to the site where private security employed by the pipeline company attacked activists with dogs and pepper spray on Labor Day. The Standing Rock Sioux claim the site is unceded tribal property, and they say they are reclaiming it for the tribe by eminent domain.
In a statement issued on Sunday, tribal leaders said:
“This morning, at approximately 8am central, water protectors took back unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land under the control of the Oceti Sakowin, erecting a frontline camp of several structures and tipis on Dakota Access property, just east of ND state highway 1806. This new established camp is 2.5 miles north of the Cannon Ball River, directly on the proposed path of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This site is directly across the road from where DAPL security dogs attacked water protectors on September 3rd.”
The other new camp borders North Dakota Highway 1806, a key point of entry for both Standing Rock Sioux territory and nearby pipeline construction sites. Using vehicles, large objects, and their own bodies, the water protectors at this new camp temporarily shut down the highway on Sunday and blocked it again on Monday afternoon.
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Sources on the ground tell MintPress that about 3,000 people are assembled in the region, divided among five encampments, including three which are largely situated on reservation territory. The gathering of Native Americans representing almost 375 tribal nations and other non-Native American groups is unprecedented in modern history.
On Monday afternoon, Broze interviewed Siouxz, a member of the water protectors’ security team, live on MintPress News’ Facebook page. Siouxz explained why the water protectors were resorting to blocking a highway:
“The goal of the blockade was mostly to send a big sign out to the world that we’re standing here united and we’re not let them take this water, that we’re not going to let this pipeline go through. Also, as a barrier of protection for our people. We’ve been threatened and harassed daily.”
Siouxz told Broze that the police or construction security had three “snipers” overlooking the highway encampment. Siouxz and other sources have reported that surveillance planes frequently circle the encampment, day and night.
Saying the camp and water protectors need more support, Siouxz urged more activists to travel to the reservation and to bring lumber and tools for building temporary shelters that will be able to withstand winter weather conditions.
On Sunday night, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault II told NBC News that he’s asking the Department of Justice to intervene on behalf of the water protectors to stop police abuse and harassment.
“The DOJ should be enlisted and expected to investigate the overwhelming reports and videos demonstrating clear strong-arm tactics, abuses and unlawful arrests by law enforcement,” he said.
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