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DAPL: Outrage Over ‘Paramilitary’ Force Against Water Protectors

Congressional Representatives, Cheyenne River Tribe, IITC and others outraged by treatment of water protectors at Standing Rock, demand accountability
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U.S. Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) are demanding a meeting with President Barack Obama over the November 20 onslaught against water protectors with rubber bullets, ice cold water in sub-freezing temperatures and other measures.

The outcry over the November 20 onslaught (which may have cost one young woman her arm) has grown. Tribal nations, environmental and human rights groups, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives have denounced the actions and are demanding accountability.

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U.S. Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) on November 28 requested an immediate meeting with White House and Department of Justice officials “to demand accountability for alarming treatment of water protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and to denounce the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp,” the two said in a joint press release that also noted the November 14 request by 21 members of Congress that Obama de-escalate the tensions at Standing Rock. Since then, they said, conditions “have only deteriorated.”

Spraying demonstrators with frigid water in sub-freezing temperatures, injuring hundreds, peppering them with rubber bullets and deploying other anti-riot weapons on unarmed civilians showed the worsening of the situation, the lawmakers said. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ solution—to send an eviction notice to residents of the Oceti Sakowin camp—“represents a concerning and disappointing course of action by the federal government,” they said.

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“We question the plan and reasoning given by the Army Corps of Engineers to close the Oceti Sakowin camp to the Water Protectors,” Grijalva and Huffman said in their statement. “The members of the Standing Rock Sioux and the hundreds of Americans who join them in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline are constitutionally protected in their right to peaceably assemble.”

The Army Corps clarified its stance on Monday November 28, saying that it would not forcibly remove anyone from the camp. However, later the same day, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an executive order as severe winter weather descended, mandating an emergency evacuation.

The Congress members' concerns mirrored those of the environmental group the Waterkeeper Alliance, which decried the “shocking acts of violence,” denounced “the aggressive tactics used by out-of-control law enforcement officials against the peaceful protesters” and renewed its call for Obama, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, to force Energy Transfer Partners to comply with the federal requirement, and “to come clean with the American public about the true costs and meager benefits of this project, including the 18 million people who rely on the Missouri River for their drinking water,” the group said in a statement on November 23.

“I think the most troubling part about this conflict is that Energy Transfer Partners is clearly breaking the law by pretending that its 1,200 mile pipeline qualifies for a loophole that is only available to projects that impact less than one acre,” said Waterkeeper Alliance President and founder Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the group’s statement.

Energy Transfer is an outlaw corporation that is violating American laws,” he said. “The peaceful protesters are asking simply that the pipeline partnership obey the laws. The state of North Dakota, instead of taking the side of the peaceful, law abiding protesters are, instead deploying the awesome military power of the state, plastic bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and acoustic cannons, against the people who are peacefully asking for law and order from a criminal enterprise.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier denounced both the violence and the planned closure, in two separate letters—one calling for the expulsion of all non-Native law enforcement from the DAPL area, and the other lambasting the Army Corps for its eviction order.

“Your letter makes a grave and dangerous mistake,” Frazier wrote on November 25 in response to the eviction notice from Col. John W. Henderson of the Army Corp. “Federal efforts to de-escalate the violence should be aimed at the wrongdoers, not at our peaceful people.”

The Navajo Nation’s Shiprock Chapter stepped up as well, with a series of strongly worded resolutions “expressing unequivocal support in the strongest terms” for the water protectors at Standing Rock. Concerned about the environment, the desecration of sacred burial grounds, the lack of consultation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the use of excessive force and other issues, the chapter called on North Dakota authorities to “cease and desist in using violent and militarized means against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters,” and called on the New Mexico and other U.S. Congressional delegations to do the same. The chapter also asked the Navajo Nation council and officials to divest all funds and assets from Wells Fargo and other institutions financing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“It is unconscionable that law enforcement gives its unswerving protection to the pipeline developers,” the chapter said. “These paramilitary security forces and law enforcement agencies have used brutal violent means to suppress the water protectors including attack dogs, mace, rubber bullets and concussion grenades. Numerous injuries have been inflicted upon peaceful and prayerful people; the acts are interpreted as a resurgence and perpetuation of the use of genocidal means to subdue Indigenous Peoples.”

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) requested that the human rights arms of the United Nations press the U.S. government “for an immediate halt to the increasing human rights violations including the use of deadly force against these unarmed defenders,” the body said in a statement on November 22.

“The IITC considers these actions as constituting use of deadly force,” the IITC said. “New reports indicate that over 300 water protectors were injured in this incident, and 27 were taken to hospitals including some with broken bones and head injuries. Photos, videos and eyewitness accounts were widely circulated on social and other media. The IITC strongly condemns this escalating violence used against peaceful human, Treaty and environmental rights defenders opposing the DAPL.”