Standing Rock oil pipeline protest standoff – Police force, Native American rights, free speech zone & government’s role

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Nov 27, 2016 Standing Rock oil pipeline protest standoff – Police force, Native American rights, free speech zone & government’s role

News reports get issued every minute of the day, even when I am sleeping and working. I have not been keeping close track of the developments over the protest standoff at the Standing Rock Indian reservation in North Dakota, over the Dakota Access Pipeline that would carry petroleum over hundreds of miles. In the meantime, the treatment of the protestors (calling themselvs water protectors) deeply concerns me. Below, I highlight the following issues that are related to criminal law, Native American rights, First Amendment rights and more:


– Opponents are concerned about the water supply being harmed if the pipeline ruptures.

It seems that President Obama is relying on the Army Corps of Engineers to deal with the water protectors and their dispute over the project. (See here, too.)

Hundreds of veterans are expected to join the protestors on December 4, 2016.

– In mid-October 2016, Democracy Now interviewed water protector arrestees and activists.


The pipeline would run from North Dakota to South Dakota to Iowa to Illinois. This map shows the pipeline’s long route.

– The Dakota pipeline project is run by Dakota Access, LLC, which is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company, LLC. Sunoco Logistics L.P. is set to Acquire Energy Transfer Partners L.P. 

– Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners have sought declaratory relief from the federal trial court in Washington, D.C. about the extent of their right of way over the pipeline project.

– Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners are at public loggerheads against the Army Corps of Engineers concerning the companies’ North Dakota activities.

– On November 18, 2016, the pipeline company’s head said that the pipeline will not be rerouted around the disputed land. The pipeline is nearly complete.


– During the weekend before Thanksgiving 2016, police sprayed water protectors with tear gas and water in subfreezing temperatures, leading several to be treated for hypothermia at the hospital. Rubber bullets were also used by police during November 20-21.

– In early November 2016, a reporter was shot by a police rubber bullet while covering the protesting.

– Here, Democracy Now on October 31, 2016, interviews water protector activist Dallas Goldtooth.

– Here is Democracy Now’s Labor Day weekend report on the September 3, 2016, private security use of dogs and pepper spray against protestors.


Here are details about the Native American assertion that the Dakota pipeline project threatens sacred land and sacred water.


– Matters may escalate in particularly undesirable and violent ways, now that on November 25, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered the water protectors off the property  they currently demonstrate from, by December 5. The land on which they are protesting is federally-owned property, not private property. The Army Corps’ eviction notice addresses moving the water protectors to a  “free speech zone,” which zone sounds hardly compatible with the First Amendment. The Army Corps’ eviction notice is here.

– Dave Archambault II, who is the chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, expressed his disappointment with the Army Corps’ move. Archembault’s recent statement seeks President Obama’s intervention and says “We ask that the United States stop the pipeline and move it outside our treaty lands.”

Nowhere do I see why this pipeline needs to go through the land being contested. We have an overgrown federal bureaucracy that may not have anticipated the debacle that would result by not bypassing this land.

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