The protests surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline took a violent turn over the weekend, when the private security firm hired to guard the controversial pipeline’s construction unleashed attack dogs on the crowd of demonstrators.
The protestors, who included women and children, had been peacefully chanting “Water is life,” as guards stood nearby with the dogs in hopes of intimidating them. At one point they unleashed the dogs without warning and released pepper spray into the area. Videos from the scene show the dogs lunging at protestors as they marched through piles of dirt created by the early stages of construction. The dogs bit at least six people, including a child. A horse was also reportedly bitten.
The OYATE Media Network reported that phone and data reception had conveniently dropped to almost zero at the same time. Video from the scene shows a helicopter belonging to the North Dakota State Patrol hovering above the chaos during the dog attack, even though Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Donnell Preskey claimed that law enforcement had not received any reports of injured protestors.
Tribal spokesperson Steve Sitting Bear said that at least 30 of the demonstrators were hit with the pepper spray. Four security guards and two of the guard dogs were also reportedly injured during the confrontation.
Pipeline will disturb sacred grounds
The incident came just a day after the Standing Rock Sioux filed documents in court saying that a number of sites bearing “significant cultural and historic value” rested in the pipeline’s proposed path. They say that they were not properly consulted prior to the approval that was granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pipeline, which is also called the Bakken Oil Pipeline, will run from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, and into Illinois.
The tribe’s chairman, David Archambault, told the media that the demolition was “devastating.” He added: “These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
In a federal complaint, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said: “The construction and operation of the pipeline … threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”
Pipeline threatens clean water supply
The protestors numbered at least 4,000 by the end of August. State officials recently removed the protestors’ water supply in an effort to deter them, which could be a sign of what is to come, as the project itself threatens the area’s clean water supply.
The Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts have garnered support from more than 200 other Native American tribes. Despite the protest’s vast size, it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace are also opposed to the pipeline, which many believe could affect the drinking water supply if it breaks, because it is being built underneath the Missouri River which supplies most of the Midwest with its water.
Around 30 environmental groups signed an official letter to President Obama asking him to reject the pipeline, just as he did with the Keystone XL pipeline.
The developer of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, claims that the $3.8 billion project would help America reduce its dependency on imported energy from unstable parts of the world. The 1,172-mile pipeline would be responsible for carrying almost half a million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota to Illinois.
According to Energy Transfer, this would bring around $156 million in income taxes and sales to the state and local governments, while adding as many as 12,000 construction jobs. However, for the Native Americans to whom this land belongs, as well as to many others living in the area, the price for all of this is simply too high.
(Image credit: Democracy Now!)