Protesters demanding the end of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline had another run-in with police this week when the Morton County Sheriff’s Department interrupted a peaceful prayer ceremony at two sites on the reservation. About 40 law enforcement officers arrived in armored vehicles and arrested 21 protestors total. The ceremony apparently involved the planting of willow and corn – hardly actions that could be mistaken by law enforcement as violent or threatening.
In a press release, the police department alleges that a protester on horseback charged at an officer. However, video of at least three riders on horseback doesn’t seem to match the description made by the officers. According to the Indian Country news site, Kyle Kirchmeier, the sheriff of Morton County, has come under fire in the past for spreading false information about the protests – including allegations that the protesters had pipe bombs. (As it turns out, the objects he claimed were bombs were actually sacred pipes used in ceremonies.)
Related: What is the Dakota Access Pipeline project? We explain…
The arrests follow multiple standoffs between the police the peaceful protestors who have gathered to air their concerns over the proposed oil pipeline, which could destroy sacred Sioux sites and poses a danger to the soil and groundwater that the Standing Rock tribe depends on.
In early September, the oil company backing the project, Energy Transfer Partners, unleashed security dogs on the protesters, resulting in several injuries. In the past month, there have been dozens of arrests for trespassing on construction sites and blocking equipment. While the US government has attempted to block the pipeline, the continued conflict shows that the battle is far from over.
Images via Tomas Alejo and Tony Webster