Dakota Pipeline Protest Crackdown! 5 Need to Know Facts!

Written by Matt Wende

Tensions erupted into violence and mayhem as Police moved in to break up protestors of the North Dakota Energy Transfer Partners Pipeline? WatchMojo presents 5 Facts that you need to know about the police action and the ongoing protests. But what does this mean for the protestors? What have high profile celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley done for the issue? What kind of threats does the pipeline really pose? How does this compare to other police actions in america? Watch to find out!

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Tensions between the police and protestors had simmered for months; In October 2016, they boiled over. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from WatchMojo.com where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 5 crucial facts you should know about the Dakota pipeline protest crackdown.

#5: What Was the Goal of the Protestors?
The Pipeline

The Dakota pipeline protests center around plans to build a 1,134-mile-long pipe to transport crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Patoka in Illinois. The proposed route crosses beneath the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and skirts half a mile from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, so any potential spill could have disastrous implications for the local water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency called for a formal Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out before plans go ahead, but concern grew in July 2016 when the US Army Corps of Engineers ‘fast-tracked’ water crossing permits to push forward the build. Protests have been ongoing all year, but were first picked up by major news agencies during the late summer. Protestors are concerned that the pipeline could pose a safety risk for residents of Standing Rock, and also that the pipeline could upend sacred Sioux tribal sites.

#4: What Actions Were Taken by Authorities?
The Crackdown

On October 27th, local authorities arrived at a protest camp that had been set up on private land owned by the Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners. The company had been building the pipeline after having been given the go-ahead for construction up to the edges of Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River. Police arrived in riot gear and were reportedly armed with tear gas, pepper spray and bean bag rounds to evict protestors, some of whom had locked themselves to building machinery in defiance. No serious injuries were reported during an operation that took around six hours to complete, and resulted in over 140 arrests. The clearance of the site was carried out one day after protestors had been asked to voluntarily leave, and a continued police presence was set up following the stand-off. The clearance of the camp signifies some of the most aggressive actions carried out by the police, after months of negotiations.

#3: What Has Been the Response of the Public and the Government?
The Divide

The protest has come to be a significant flashpoint in the national conversation regarding Native American rights, and the right to free speech. Activists argue that they are being attacked for voicing their defiance and for trying to protect their water, while the police say it is simply responding to illegal activity being carried out on private land; charges that have been issued include trespassing, participating in a riot, and resisting arrest. Energy Transfer Partners claims that it has carried out all necessary investigations into the local area, that the pipeline doesn’t interfere with any important cultural or sacred spots and that concerns are unfounded. The clash has also drawn the attention of some high profile personalities, including civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and actors Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley, who have all visited the pipeline site – Woodley was arrested earlier in October for her part in the protest. The pipeline has also been linked to the 2016 Presidential race. Republican nominee Donald Trump is reported to have financial links to the Energy Transfer Partners firm, while the protest was brought to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s door when activists met outside her campaign HQ in NYC, but were not received.

#2: Why Has This Invited Controversy?
The Contrast

As the confrontation gets more aggressive, it has also grown increasingly controversial. The tactics of some activists, including the setting of fires and vandalism of property, has angered authorities, onlookers and peaceful protestors. Others, including the activists themselves, are dismayed at how harsh the crackdown on demonstrations has been, with the police choosing to employ ‘brute force’ and issue a wide number of arrests. For some, the case has highlighted inconsistencies in how protests are dealt with in America, particularly considering the surprising acquittal of those involved in a 41-day stand-off against police at an Oregon wildlife refuge in January, which was announced a day after Standing Rock was evacuated. In this instance, an armed group had occupied the refuge for almost a month and a half in protest over land control laws. The acquittal labels the Oregon protest as justified civil disobedience, but many of those protesting the Dakota pipeline fear a less favorable outcome for their cause.

#1: What’s Next for the Pipeline?
The Future

In total, there have been over 400 arrests since protests began at Standing Rock. While the latest, and by most measures largest stand-off so far has been quashed by the police, protestors have vowed that the fight against the building of the pipeline isn’t finished. Tensions have reached new highs as Energy Transfer Partners continues to build despite the unrest. Advocates for the pipeline say it will have huge economic benefits and mean that America will be less reliant on imported oil; those against say it’s an unnecessary environmental threat. And, due to the high emotions involved, the Dakota pipeline protest has forced the US to think over how effective its freedom of speech and civil rights laws are. Whatever the outcome, if the demonstrations are successful or not, it’s a debate which will rumble for some time yet.

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