(ANTIMEDIA) Amid the increasingly tense standoff between Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and militarized police in North Dakota, law enforcement has taken another swipe at the opposition.
Protesters on the ground have enjoyed widespread support from individuals around the world, and as those resisting the pipeline brace for a freezing winter, they have moved to set up tents and other forms of shelter — efforts authorities claim are illegal due to zoning restrictions.
As a result, agents of the state have announced they will prevent protesters from receiving building materials, as well as food.
Reuters initially reported Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, said, “They have deliveries, retailers that are delivering to them – we will turn around any of those services.”
Reuters also reported Cecily Fong, a spokeswoman for North Dakota’s Emergency Services, said “building materials intended for the site are a top priority because the camp is not zoned for permanent structures,” as paraphrased by the outlet.
These quotes are cited in an article published by Slate, but the original Reuters story was later changed and neither of those statements remains in the article (here’s an archived version showing the outlet initially reported incoming supplies would be blocked). A later archived version of the Reuters piece shows Reuters changed the story reflect that “North Dakota officials on Tuesday backed away from plans to physically block supplies from reaching oil pipeline protesters,” citing Herr as admitting she was previously mistaken.
However, even these details were cut from the final version of the Reuters article, which removed any reference to the apparent confusion between Morton County police, Emergency Services, and the Governor’s office. The governor’s office has since reiterated it never had plans to institute a blockade, meaning it appears Morton County Sheriff’s got ahead of themselves before changing their statements.
Still, authorities have made it clear that while they don’t intend to set up a physical blockade, they will impose a $1,000 fine to anyone who shows up to the camp to deliver supplies.
This could affect individuals like local minister Karen Van Fossen, who along with members of the Bismarck-Mandan Unitarian Universalist Congregation, has been bringing food, diapers, tents, sleeping bags, and other necessary items to the protesters at Standing Rock over the last several months.
Van Fossen is undeterred by the latest police order.
“As people of faith and conviction, we are committed to peaceful, prayerful solidarity with Standing Rock. If supplies are needed to survive the long winter, we will do our best to provide them,” she told the Bismarck Tribune.
So far, Herr has said officers “will warn people carrying goods to camp that they could be subject to an infraction with a maximum penalty of $1,000,” apparently indicating law enforcement will not ticket first-time ‘offenders.’
The so-far tepid enforcement of the new policy parallels recent demands from various authorities for protesters to leave the Army Corps of Engineer land where they’re currently stationed. Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers issued an evacuation notice to protesters but shortly after clarified they had no plans to forcibly remove them. The agency asserted those who remain may be subject to citation. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe vowed to remain where they are.
Similarly, on Monday, Governor Dalrymple issued a mandatory evacuation order but failed to stipulate any specific enforcement actions. The order simply demands that protesters leave. The decision to block supplies followed shortly after, but it remains to be seen how strictly and consistently the new policy will be enforced.
As Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II said:
“The governor cites harsh weather conditions and the threat to human life. As I have stated previously, the most dangerous thing we can do is force well-situated campers from their shelters and into the cold.”
Even as authorities at different levels appear to waffle on enforcing their demands, their previous actions have provoked global outrage. Between the heavy-handed use of eminent domain, abuses of journalists, and violent attacks on peaceful protesters, Energy Transfer Partners — the company behind the pipeline — and government agencies are losing the public relations battle.
Even so, they are continuing to sanction dangerous, hypocritical behavior.
On November 18, Morton County police urged demonstrators to leave the protest camp, warning of subzero temperatures and expressing concern for those exposed to the elements. They cautioned about the dangers of hypothermia. But the very same police proved their lack of sincerity when just days later, they blasted hundreds of protesters with water cannons, soaking them with water in already freezing temperatures and prompting many to require treatment for … hypothermia.
In the same contradictory manner, government agents who have routinely violated hundreds of individuals’ constitutional rights are now claiming to be concerned with rule of law, using the guise of zoning permits and “public safety” to justify forcing the potential starvation and hypothermia of protesters dedicated to their cause.
While some might argue that because protesters are violating codes, they have incited their own mistreatment, the system deeming their behavior unlawful is the same one that has allowed the historical usurpation of their property rights, relegating them to the whims and rulings of overarching governments with special interests at heart.
Further, in spite of officers’ claims they are in danger, making their violence against protesters is warranted, it’s worth noting that in the most recent widespread clash on November 20, police saw one officer harmed by a rock thrown by a demonstrator; on the same evening, hundreds of protesters sustained injuries, including one young woman whose arm was reportedly ripped open by a concussion grenade.
Regardless of the measures authorities take to silence dissent at the site of the pipeline, it’s doubtful protesters will be backing down anytime soon. This week, they filed a class action suit against the Morton County Sheriff’s Department over its aggressive policing tactics. Next week, they will be joined by over 2,000 veterans who are heading to the scene to defend protesters from law enforcement.
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