In the wake of last week’s #NoDAPL riot many of the protesters and their sympathizers claimed that the “militarized” response from law enforcement was unwarranted. They showed pictures of police officers wearing riot gear and driving armored vehicles while working to remove protesters from a public highway they blocked, and private land they were trespassing on, and argued that the response was excessive.
Law enforcement, meanwhile, argued that the heavy equipment was warranted because protesters were throwing rocks and homemade explosives at them.
I can now, by way of a request made to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, put some evidence behind that latter claim made by law enforcement. This video is from last Thursday night – October 27 – taken from an aircraft which was monitoring a standoff between police and protesters blocking what’s called the Backwater Bridge.
In it you can clearly see a flaming object thrown from the protest side of the standoff toward law enforcement, exploding in a bright flash of light once it lands:
I have been critical of law enforcement becoming too militarized. I have harped on law enforcement in this state for using rhetoric about “warrior cops” which I find too confrontational. After all, if cops are “warriors,” who are they at war with? The rest of the public?
But sometimes cops go into dangerous situations, and sometimes those situations warrant heavy-duty, “militarized” gear so the cops can be safe (or, at least, safer) and do their jobs effectively.
Put simply, it’s hard to argue against a “militarized” police response to protesters when the protesters were throwing bombs. In a literal, and not figurative, sense.
Meanwhile, the Bismarck Tribune today editorializes in favor of the police response. “Law enforcement did the right thing last week when they removed protesters from private land,” the paper writes.
“Officials gave the protesters ample warning that they were coming and they had an opportunity to withdraw, but many didn’t do so,” the editorial continues. “To the outside world it may have appeared like a military operation, but law enforcement needed to protect themselves. Overall, the operation went smoothly with no serious injuries. It’s unfortunate the situation came to this, but some of the protesters refused to back off.”
It was definitely an unfortunate situation, but the point worth remembering is that the situation was created by the protesters themselves. They could have left peacefully, with zero arrests, when asked to do so by law enforcement for days before the riot. They refused, which left the cops with no other choice.