More Than 125 Defiant Protesters Arrested: New Clashes in the Battle at Standing Rock

October 24, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Saturday, October 22, more than 300 protesters—people from different Native American tribes and others—faced off defiantly in North Dakota against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline threatens water supplies and tramples on burial grounds considered sacred by Native Americans at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Morton County sheriffs moved against the protesters, using pepper spray and arresting 83 people. The sheriff’s department charged the protesters with “criminal trespass” and “engaging in a riot.”

A protester wrote: “Sitting at the hospital in Fort Yates because today at the action the police maced, and hit innocent people with their batons. Our fellow youth council members were hit with a baton multiple times because they tried to protect the children. One of us got arrested and another is in the hospital. This is what they are doing to us. Police brutality at its finest people.”

The heroic resisters have faced brutality at the hands of armed oil company thugs as well as official pigs and mass arrests before in this months-long struggle. And the protesters were undaunted by this latest repression. The next day, October 23, hundreds of people blocked Highway 1806. By the end of the weekend, a total of 127 protesters had been arrested. The Censored News blog reports that there is a call for continuing protests in the coming days and for more people to join.

On October 23 the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, said in a statement: "The militarization of local law enforcement and enlistment of multiple law enforcements agencies from neighboring states is needlessly escalating violence and unlawful arrests against peaceful protestors at Standing Rock. We do not condone reports of illegal actions, but believe the majority of peaceful protestors are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement.

"Thousands of water protectors have joined the Tribe in solidarity against DAPL, without incident or serious injury. Yet, North Dakota law enforcement have proceeded with a disproportionate response to their nonviolent exercise of their First Amendment rights, even going as far as labeling them rioters and calling their every action illegal."

The DAPL is a 1,200-mile-long pipeline that, when completed, would carry 500,000 barrels of oil a day, extracted through environmentally destructive methods in northwest North Dakota. The burning of that oil would pump more greenhouse gases into the environment, further escalating the global climate crisis. While DAPL hasn’t attracted the same level of international attention as the Keystone XL pipeline, which crosses the U.S.-Canada border, DAPL is on the same scale. The pipeline route cuts through land that is historically and culturally important to the Sioux and other Native people. And leaks from the pipeline where it is designed to cross the Missouri River would threaten the water, health, and livelihood of the people at Standing Rock reservation and millions of others in the region.

On Saturday, October 22, 83 people were arrested as 300 protestors stood their ground to block the attempts to build the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. The proposed pipeline would savage the environment and endanger several nearby Native American reservations and lands.

Starting with a few protesters earlier this year, the defiant struggle of the “water defenders,” as many at Standing Rock call themselves, has drawn in hundreds of Native tribes—including ones with longstanding historic conflicts—as well as environmental activists and a wide range of people compelled to take a stand against injustice and oppression. Thousands of people are now part of an encampment near the Standing Rock reservation. Well-known voices, such as Edward Snowden and Susan Sarandon, have come out in support of the anti-DAPL protests, and actor Shailene Woodley was among those arrested at a protest earlier this month. At least 19 city governments have passed resolutions or written letters opposing construction of the pipeline.

The determined actions of the fighters at Standing Rock are posing big questions about the ongoing genocide of indigenous people and the predatory nature of the oil-addicted capitalist-imperialist system. On the other side are not just the capitalists who have billions of dollars invested in the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline, but the ruling class as a whole who are all committed to what they call U.S. “energy independence.” Whatever the conflicts among themselves, they are in agreement on the need, based on their imperialist interests, to increase domestic fuel production in order to gain strategic advantage over rival world powers, as part of maintaining their position as top global oppressor and exploiter.

The situation at Standing Rock has been intensifying. On October 9, a federal appeals court denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request for an injunction to halt the pipeline construction. The pipeline company immediately restarted the construction, which had been temporarily stopped. On October 10, the police arrested 27 people carrying out a peaceful protest to stop the pipeline crews. Mainstream and Trump-style fascist media (which are barely distinguishable from each other in rural North and South Dakota) have whipped up a climate of violent hatred for “the Indians” among significant numbers of whites in the area, who are armed and openly threatening Native Americans and those they perceive as supporting them.

Adding to the urgency is the approach of the brutally cold Dakota winter, when temperatures often drop below minus 30 degrees, accompanied by ferocious Plains winds and large snow drifts. That will pose serious challenges for the Standing Rock encampment, as well as for those carrying out the pipeline construction.

The just, courageous stand of the protesters at Standing Rock—and the vicious repression they are up against—present a challenge to everyone: Which side are you on? All those who hate injustice and oppression and aspire to a better world need to stand with and support this struggle.


For background on the struggle at Standing Rock, see these articles:

High Stakes, Intensifying Contradictions at Standing Rock

Native Americans Fight Modern-Day Genocide: Standing Up at Standing Rock


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