Since April, “water protectors” and supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been camped out near Cannon Ball, ND, in protest of the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which is near completion. Because the activists have cost the oil company hundreds of thousands of dollars, tension between opposers of the DAPL and law enforcement workers has only escalated in recent months.
In addition to protesters being tear gassed, beaten with batons, shot with rubber bullets, maced and tased, activists were drenched by water cannons in below-freezing temperatures last week. It’s this kind of controversial action that resulted in the Water Protector Legal Collective filing a suit against Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Morton County and other law enforcement agencies on Monday.
Bismarck Tribune reports that the lawyer guild seeks an immediate injunction to prevent Kirchmeier and other agencies from using detrimental munitions, such as rubber bullets, lead-filled beanbags, water and sound cannons, water hoses, directed energy devices, explosive tear gas grenades, and other chemical against the protestors.
Reportedly, the court is deciding whether or not to issue a temporary restraining order against police, as their actions and munitions “fall outside legal parameters.” Indeed, action taken against the protestors in recent weeks has resulted in one woman almost losing her arm, several tribal leaders being hospitalized, activists suffering broken bones, some losing consciousness, and a woman possibly going blind due to impact to her eye.
Referring to the night activists were drenched by water cannons in frigid temperatures, attorney Rachel Lederman remarked:
“The civil rights violations that night were deliberate and punitive. Illegal use of force against the water protectors has been escalating. It is only a matter of luck that no one has been killed. This must stop.”
“When we’re put in the position of protected areas being overrun by numbers of people, these are lawful tools to quell the advancement. These are standing orders. When decisions have to be made by the field commander, he has the necessary authority to make the call.”
Kirchmeier claims the action taken against the protestors is for the protection of police. But if the “water protectors” are unarmed, is violence against those gathered truly necessary?