As we see increasing local and national coverage of the protests on the Standing Rock reservation of the Dakota Access Pipeline (which does not, in fact, touch reservation lands) the mantra that is often repeated by organizers is that the protests are peaceful.
Except, they’re not peaceful. At all.
For one thing, protesters have trespassed on private land for the express purpose of trying to disrupt the perfectly lawful work on the pipeline. Federal Judge Daniel Hovland has now issued a restraining order against tribal and protest leaders because of their incessant disruptions.
In their filing for the order the Dakota Access folks alleged that their workers had been threatened, and that protesters have been throwing rocks and bottles.
That’s not “peaceful.”
For another, the interactions between protesters and county/state law enforcement have also been something less than peaceful. Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault was arrested a few days ago for “pushing back on a police line formed when protesters tried to prevent pipeline workers from leaving the site.” His arrest is just one of dozens at the protest site so far.
That’s also not “peaceful.” Keep in mind that in Iowa and other places along the Dakota Access route the project has been plagued with acts of vandalism and apparent arson.
And then there’s this video of protesters riding their horses at a line of law enforcement officers who were trying to keep protesters off private land and away from the pipeline workers:
I don’t know how to describe that other than an attempt to intimidate these law enforcement officers and/or bait them. I know if I had been standing on that line I’d have been frightened. Of course, I’m not a trained law enforcement officer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these officers admitted to being frightened by this display.
The video is from the Facebook page of a group called the Urban Native Era which defends the protesters by saying, “This is a traditional way of introduction of horses in the Lakota way,” adding that despite this troubling display it is “Still a peaceful protest happening to block the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
That wording makes me think the post authors probably realize that the protest, at least in this instance, was not peaceful at all.
The protest organizers need to stop claiming that these activities are peaceful. They’re not. In fact, they’re unacceptable. They have every right, under the first amendment, to express their point of view on the pipeline. They do not have the right to put cops in danger. Or to trespass. Or to make threats toward pipeline workers.
UPDATE: The protesters have taken to completely blocking Highway 1806:
First, why are state officials allowing this? It’s not legal to block a highway. This needs to be stopped.
Second, that highway is the main path to the Prairie Knights Casino on the reservation, which is a major source of revenue for the Standing Rock tribe. By blocking the highway, the people they’re probably hurting the most are probably themselves.