UN: Dakota pipeline protesters face excessive force

US authorities are using excessive force against protesters in North Dakota who are trying to halt a proposed oil pipeline project, according to a UN human rights expert on Nov. 15. According to Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, about 400 people have been detained in "inhuman and degrading conditions." Protesters are have reportedly been confronted with rubber bullets, tear-gas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds. If detained, they are reportedly marked with a number and held in overcrowded cages lined with concrete flooring. Kiai labeled these responses by local security forces as "militarized." Kiai said, "This is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity. The excessive use of State security apparatus to suppress protest against corporate activities that are alleged to violate human rights is wrong and contrary to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights."

From Jurist, Nov. 16. Used with permission.

  1. Police use water cannons on Dakota Access protesters

    Authorities defended their decision to douse protesters with water during a skirmish in sub-freezing weather near the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and organizers said at least 17 protesters were taken to the hospital—including some who were treated for hypothermia.

    Protesters were trying to remove burned vehicles blocking Backwater Bridge in order to restore access to their nearby encampments. Police fired volleys of tear gas at the protesters to prevent them from crossing the bridge. Law enforcement also fired rubber bullets and sprayed protesters with water in temperatures that reached as low as 18 Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius) overnight. (Reuters, WP)

  2. Dakota Access pipeline protester may lose her arm

    Protester Sophia Wilansky, 21, was severely injured and may lose her arm after being hit by a police concussion grenade at the Dakota Access site near the Missouri River. Evacuated to a Minneapolis hospital for emergency surgery, she will require additional surgery in the coming days and her arm may still have to be amputated, according to her father Wayne Wilansky. "She’s devastated. She looks at her arm and she cries." Pictures of her injured arm, with bone shattered and exposed, have circulated on social media. Protest organizer dismiss denials by the Morton County sheriff's department that their officers used concussion grenades, and the department's suggestion that the injury may have occurred while the protesters were "rigging up their own explosives." (The Guardian

  3. Army Corps to close pipeline protest camp

    The Army Corps of Engineers announced Nov. 25 that it will clear the stretch of public land that for months has been the site of an encampment for the anti-pipeline protesters in North Dakota. A letter to the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said all lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed on Dec. 5. "To be clear, this means that no member of the general public, to include Dakota Access pipeline protesters, can be on these Corps lands," the letter from Col. John Henderson reads. Another camp, Sacred Stone, sits on the opposite of the river and will not be affected by the Army Corps decision. The statement says this area will be maintained as a "free speech zone."

    But tribal chairman Dave Archambault and other protest leaders mad clear that they intend to stay at the threaetned Oceti Sakowin camp. Said in a statement: "Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever. The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now. We ask that everyone who can appeal to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the future of our people and rescind all permits, and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just north of our Reservation and straight through our treaty lands." (NBC, NPRThe Hill)

  4. Demand investigation into North Dakota repression

    New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is calling on the Justice Department to open an investigation into the tactics used by police against the pipeline protesters in North Dakota. In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Booker: said that he is "deeply troubled by this tense situation, and particularly by reports indicating that law enforcement may be responding to peaceful protestors near Standing Rock with overly aggressive tactics."