In a dramatic turn of events over the long holiday weekend, contractor Energy Transfer Partners brought in attack dogs to deter protesters at archaeological sites on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sacred grounds.
Protesters were attempting to protect the religious integrity of the site as well as protecting the environment in front of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. The protesters faced off with the hired security guards from the Dallas company, according to NPR. Videos from the scene show the guards holding off the protesters with attack dogs.
The Army Corps of Engineers approved the addition of the pipeline in July, but hundreds of Native Americans from a number of tribes are protesting its construction. The pipeline is to run under the Missouri River, near the Sioux Standing Rock Reservation.
The protesters are concerned that the pipeline, planned to run through four different states, will invade sacred sites and contaminate the reservation’s drinking water. Violence broke out on Saturday when Energy Transfer Partners began bulldozing the site.
According to videotape by the show Democracy Now!, the guards had attack dogs and used pepper spray on the protesters. One protester sported bloody bite marks from one of the dogs for the camera, while another appeared to have been sprayed with mace, with a swollen face and watering eyes.
The video below, courtesy of Democracy Now! shows the site of conflict between the company security guards and the protesters. (Warning: Video contains some profanity.)
In direct contradiction to the content of the video, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the protesters marched onto private property and were the instigators of the violence:
‘Once protesters arrived at the construction area, they broke down a wire fence by stepping and jumping on it. According to numerous witnesses within five minutes the crowd of protesters, estimated to be a few hundred people became violent. They stampeded into the construction area with horses, dogs and vehicles.’
Regardless of the opinion of the Sheriff’s Department, the tribe also filed a successful emergency motion over the weekend calling for an immediate halt of construction. The tribe had filed a complaint earlier in the summer with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t follow appropriate procedures when they okayed the plans for construction. According to the emergency motion filed this weekend, it is likely that the bulldozers have already begun digging up the sacred sites before the tribe members have had a chance to look for human remains.
The Army Corps of Engineers responded to the emergency motion, saying it did not object to a temporary halt to the construction while awaiting further legal action. It also released a statement on Tuesday saying it has no objection to the temporary halt to construction and acknowledging the conflict that has arisen because of it:
‘The Corps acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the Court can render its well-considered opinion on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Corps therefore does not oppose this short and discrete temporary restraining order.’
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