One of the narratives which has developed around the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline which is that the State of North Dakota has committed some sort of foul by removing state-owned water tanks, and a state-owned air conditioned trailer, from the site of the protests.
The folks at Amnesty International, which have sent personnel to the state to monitor the protests, cited this in their recent press release. “State law enforcement has removed state-owned water tanks that have served as the main supply of drinking water for the encampment, citing public safety concerns,” the group states.
State Rep. Kylie Oversen, the titular chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party, also cited this in a (rather contradictory and incoherent) message about the protests she posted on Facebook last night (perhaps in response to my post yesterday about how silent Democrats have been on this thorny issue):
These protesters have not been all that peaceful, have repeatedly and flagrantly broken the law, and have vowed to continue obstructing this pipeline even if court rulings fail to go their way. So it’s understandable that state officials would be concerned about how state property might be treated by the protesters.
Removing the property seems prudent in light of the behavior at the protests.
But even beyond that, why was this property there in the first place?
We all have a 1st amendment right to peacefully assemble. What we do not have is the right to demand that the government, at any level, provide us with the resources to protest.
There are plenty of deep pockets behind these protests, including celebrities and high-profile environmental groups. Let them pay for the water. And let’s stop pretending as though the state pulling resources – which, frankly, shouldn’t have been there in the first place – is some kind of a human rights violation.
UPDATE: It turns out Snopes, believe it or not, has a pretty accurate run down of some of the conspiracy theories about the state’s reactions to the protest. They address the water issue (the tanks were removed from an illegal protest site) and claims that the state was somehow interfering with cell phone coverage. In fact, the opposite is true:
Fong noted that related rumors held protesters were unable to broadcast activities taking place the protest site due to government interference with cell phones. However, she told us that the connectivity problems stemmed from an influx of protesters to a remote location and stated that NDDES had worked with mobile carriers to enable media and social media coverage of the protests by establishing a repeater tower.