MANDAN, N.D. – The chairmen of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes on Saturday condemned the aggression used against Dakota Access pipeline opponents this week and said they’re considering taking legal action against law enforcement.
Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II said more than 40 people were injured, including broken bones and welts from rubber bullets and bean bag rounds fired by law enforcement Thursday when hundreds of officers removed people from the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.
“It’s just wrong to use that type of force on innocent people,” Archambault said Saturday during a news conference in front of the Morton County Sheriff’s Office.
Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier said he has heard reports of inhumane treatment while people were incarcerated and the tribe has attorneys considering filing a lawsuit.
“All they’re doing is standing up to protect that water,” Frazier said.
Authorities arrested 141 people on Thursday in an hours-long confrontation north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as law enforcement in riot gear and military equipment removed protesters from the highway and property owned by the pipeline company.
Law enforcement on Friday defended the use of deterrents such as pepper spray, bean bag and sponge rounds and a device that emits a high-pitched tone, saying they only used the force necessary to diffuse the situation, which included several fires being set.
Officials say a woman fired a .38-caliber revolver in the direction of officers after being taken to the ground for resisting arrest, but that account is disputed by participants in the protest.
Archambault also called for a reroute of the Dakota Access pipeline, pointing out that the company has spent millions to purchase land in a contentious area of the route and the state is spending millions to bring in hundreds of law enforcement officers.
“If the state can spend $7 to $9 million to fight peaceful, innocent people, then the resources are there,” he said. “It’s just like ‘do what we can to put it here.’ We don’t matter.”
Frazier said he takes offense to how arrestees were treated, being held in what he described as dog kennels and given numbers written on their arms, reminiscent of Holocaust concentration camps.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said Friday that when someone was arrested at the scene, they were marked and their personal belongings were put into a bag with a corresponding number “so we know what went with who.”
They were then put on a bus or transport van and brought to the Morton County law enforcement center in Mandan, where they were held in chain-link fence temporary holding cells that were put up to handle the large number of arrestees, Kirchmeier said.
“And that is because when we have 80, 90, and in this case 140 people brought in at one time, we can’t just let them run amok,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to keep control of them, and we do that by temporary holding, and then they are individually put in there and then processed through the jail at that point.”
Archambault also criticized the actions of Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, including their use of unlicensed security officers who used guard dogs on Sept. 3.
The company continued construction in the contentious area of the pipeline route Thursday despite the confrontation unfolding between protesters and law enforcement and a request from the Department of Justice to voluntarily stop construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe.
“Nobody should be protecting this company,” Archambault said.
Frazier said he’s seeking a full law enforcement report on the Dakota Access security worker removed from the protest area with an assault rifle Thursday and would like to see the man charged with attempted murder.
“They’re saying that our people are the criminals. But what about them?” Frazier said.
Vicki Granado Anderson, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, disputed Saturday that the man was contracted by Dakota Access.
People at the scene found a photo ID in his truck that said DAPL security and the truck had paperwork that said it was insured by Dakota Access. Forum News Service has obtained copies of this documentation.
In addition, Kirchmeier identified the man as working for Dakota Access security.
But Anderson said the badge did not mean he was a DAPL employee, but is a badge “given to people much in the same way a company gives you a guest badge when you go to their offices for a meeting.”
Frazier, who said he had a tribal member who was praying in a sweat lodge when arrested Thursday, pointed out that North Dakota is named for the Dakota people.
“But yet, we’re forgotten by the ones who carry our name,” Frazier said. “That is really sad and alarming.”
On Saturday afternoon, the numbers at the Oceti Sakowin camp grew as more people arrived to show their support. Security volunteers encouraged people to move further south on Highway 1806 and away from the Backwater Bridge, where vehicles that were torched remained from Thursday night’s confrontation.
Law enforcement continued to have a large presence just on the north side of the bridge and began removing debris.
In Bismarck, about 65 people demonstrated on a sidewalk in front of the State Capitol in support of pipeline protesters and to call attention to what they say is a lack of responsiveness by state government to concerns raised by residents and landowners about the siting of oil pipelines, wells and other issues.
Nicole Donaghy, an enrolled Standing Rock member and field organizer with the Dakota Resource Council activist group, blasted what she called “propaganda” suggesting that protesters were stealing and killing livestock.
“We need a real leader who will not villainize the people,” she said after demonstrators chanted “Where’s Jack?” in reference to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
About half a dozen people staged a counter-protest on the same sidewalk. Darcy Peterson of Bismarck waved a black-and-white American flag with a blue stripe to show support for law enforcement. Peterson said everyone has a right to stand up for what they believe in, but she and others expressed concerns about the long-term effects of damaging actions by out-of-state protesters.
“I think our state’s going to be torn apart when the outside interests have all left,” Peterson said.