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FBI Contacting Water Protectors, Says The Guardian

FBI contacting water protectors who were involved in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock, The Guardian reports.
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At least three people associated with the water protectors who participated in the standoff against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have been approached by U.S. antiterrorism experts allegedly fishing for information, according to a report in The Guardian. While the scope and purpose behind the FBI contacting water protectors could not be determined, free-speech advocates called the revelation worrisome.

The Guardian has established that multiple officers within the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce have attempted to contact at least three people tied to the Standing Rock “water protector” movement in North Dakota,” the newspaper reported on February 10. “The purpose of the officers’ inquiries into Standing Rock, and scope of the task force’s work, remains unknown. Agency officials declined to comment. But the fact that the officers have even tried to communicate with activists is alarming to free-speech experts who argue that anti-terrorism agents have no business scrutinizing protesters.”

Those approached included Sophia Wilansky, the 21-year-old New York City woman whose arm was nearly blown off during an action at the blocked-off bridge along Highway 1806, a site that has been a focus of contention throughout the standoff. Wilansky was visited by agents while in a Minnesota hospital, on the verge of being wheeled into surgery, said her father, Wayne Wilansky, to The Guardian. He said they took her clothes at that time, and have not returned them.

The FBI has declined to comment.

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“We’re not in a position to provide a comment as to the existence of an investigation,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.

Morton County authorities, headed by Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, have from the beginning alleged that the water protectors were violent, but have not provided any proof. To date there have been more than 700 arrests since last summer—including, last week, a journalist on assignment for Indian Country Media Network. While released from jail after a day, Jenni Monet still faces charges. News of the FBI contacting water protectors set off alarms among human rights organizations.

“The idea that the government would attempt to construe this indigenous-led non-violent movement into some kind of domestic terrorism investigation is unfathomable to me,” said Lauren Regan, executive director of the Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense Center, to The Guardian. “It’s outrageous, it’s unwarranted … and it’s unconstitutional.”

Read Revealed: FBI Terrorism Taskforce Investigating Standing Rock Activists in The Guardian.