WCC student heads for the front lines to find out the truth
By Andrew Gasiorowski
Concerned people traveled and are still traveling to North Dakota to support the Great Sioux Nation in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Though united by a unified by a common goal there are many reasons to stand with the Sioux. According to the Seattle Times, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to include an environmental impact statement in their already limited review of the pipeline. This pipeline passes through the Missouri River, which a primary source of drinking water for the Sioux according to a recent article by Business Insider.
As people continue to ask questions, the paramilitary forces guarding the construction grow more aggressive. Each day’s end marks a decline in the relationship between police and water protectors, the name the opponents of the pipeline have taken on.
On Nov. 28, Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota issued an executive order calling for the mandatory evacuation of the protest area in reference to the harsh winter weather. Although Dalrymple indicated having no plan for forcibly removing protesters from their camps, the evacuation order means that first responders are not obligated to come if called.
This may cause problems if more violence breaks out. Parallel to Dalrymple’s order, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a similar statement about the protests that occur on their land. After Dec. 5, it will be unlawful to remain in the camp area.
On Sept. 3, Marcus Frejo and Ursula Young Bear were victims in the first attack in a string of increasingly worse attacks on the water protectors. They were with a group walking up a hill towards a sacred site when they saw bulldozers and trucks.
Frejo yelled for them to stop before security threw him to the ground. He says they began using their trucks and bulldozers as weapons, driving dangerously close to them according to an Indian Country article from Sept. 4,. It climaxed when attacked by dogs went after six people–the bites left marks, 30 more were victim to pepper spray.
“It felt like a set-up,” Young Bear said. Since then the attacks have escalated; rubber bullets and tear gas are now a mainstay. On Nov. 20, police used water cannons in below freezing temperatures to break up crowds.
There is an amount of mystery on the exact amount of force used against protesters. Isolated and away from big cities this isn’t a situation where everyone has a smart phone and is a few clicks away from Facebook. People will spend days in peaceful protest only to find themselves thrust into a violent attack from dogs, rubber bullets, or water cannons according to recent reports.
The next few days will be decisive for the water defenders. The entire country will be watching to see how they handle this transition. People will continue to be skeptical of the police and security forces present. This isn’t over—not by a long shot.