Police Violence Brings Amnesty International To Standing Rock

The militarization of law enforcement is part of the current police violence.

Police violence perpetuates an old, incredibly shameful, story: “America has always walked though the blood of my people.”

Police violence against the Native tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline has reached such a high level that Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) has become involved. The organization has sent a delegation of human rights observers to the site.

AISUA Sent Letters Of Concern To Law Enforcement

AIUSA has also sent letters to both the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department to share its concerns about human rights violations. Their press release announcing the delegation cited incidents in which pepper spray, bean bags, and guard dogs were used against protesters, plus those arrested have been subjected to unnecessary strip searches and forced to pay bail for minor offenses. In a further outrageous misuse of power, members of the press and other legal observers have been arrested.

Eric Ferrero, director of communications for AIUSA, said:

People here just want to stand up for the rights of Indigenous people and protect their natural resources. These people should not be treated like the enemy. Police must keep the peace using minimal force appropriate to the situation. Confronting men, women, and children while outfitted in gear more suited for the battlefield is a disproportionate response.

But time and time again, law enforcement has shown itself to be a militarized force in this country, especially against minority populations. It has also shown itself to have more of an interest in protecting those with money and power, including corporate entities, than in preserving the rights of the people.

And, make no mistake, the Native tribes are a vital part of ‘the people’ of this country. Thousands of members of at least 280 tribes have traveled to Standing Rock to become ‘water protectors,’ attempting to prevent the construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River. Someone has to protect our natural resources from corporate interests — for the sake of us all.

Police Violence Has Been Graphically Described

The brutality that the water protectors were subjected to last Thursday was graphically described from onsite by sacredstonecamp.org:

Law enforcement from at least five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska) were present today through EMAC, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.  This law was passed by the Bill Clinton administration and allows states to share law enforcement forces during emergencies.

The law has been used for only one other protest — the demonstrations in Baltimore in 2015. Funny how the police amass their total power when they’re ready to confront people of color.

Friday’s report describes the beginning of the police violence:

Over 300 police officers in riot gear, 8 ATVs, 5 armored vehicles, 2 helicopters, and numerous military-grade humvees showed up north of the newly formed frontline camp just east of Highway 1806. 

According to the protesters, this 1851 Treaty Camp was built on land that was given to them as part of the Standing Rock Reservation by the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1851. Though the government considers it private property, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe considers it unceded territory that belongs to them, especially since it contains sacred ground.

The militarized force was reported to begin clearing the camp with the use of violent force:

In addition to pepper spray and concussion grenades, shotguns were fired into the crowd with less lethal ammunition and a sound cannon was used… 

A prayer circle of elders, including several women, was interrupted and all were arrested for standing peacefully on the public road…

 A group of water protectors was also dragged out of a ceremony in a sweat lodge erected in the path of the pipeline, wearing minimal clothing, thrown to the ground, and arrested…

At least six other members of the youth council verified that they had been maced up to five times and were also shot and hit with bean bags…

Two medics giving aid at front line were hit with batons and thrown off the car they were sitting on…

[A] horse was reported to be hit in the legs by live rounds. Another horse was shot and did not survive…

The assaults continued throughout Thursday as officers attempted to sweep the camp clear — with a line of pipeline bulldozers behind them — and the Natives did their best to stand firm. Ladonna Bravebull Allard, who allowed the establishment of the original camp on her own land, said:

My people stand for the water, and they attack us. My people stand up for the graves of our people, and they attack us. My people stand up for our sacred places, and they attack us. My people pray, and they stop us, dragging us from our prayer, and throw us in the dirt. I know this is America- this is the history of my people. America has always walked though the blood of my people. 

Centuries Of Injustice Preceded The Police Violence

That is fact, and America needs to face up to the injustice it has allowed and promoted. It needs to be more interested in the rape of the Earth than it is in the constant newsfeed about the sexual predation perpetrated by Donald Trump.

Eryn Wise of the International Indigenous Youth Council reported:

Today more than half of our youth council were attacked, injured or arrested. In addition to our brothers and sisters being hurt and incarcerated, we saw police steal our sacred staff. I have no words for what happened to any of us today. They are trying to again rewrite our narrative and we simply will not allow it. Our youth are watching and remember the faces of the officers that assaulted them. They pray for them.

“They pray for them.” Where is a similar emotion from others for the Native tribes?

I’m speechless at the compassion. And deeply ashamed of this country.

Feature photo from @UR_Ninja.


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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a political blogger and social activist. In spite of years of monitoring the political scene in America, she remains optimistic about the future.
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