Society

Militarized Police Beat, Pepper Spray Native Americans (Video)

| by Michael Allen

Police pepper sprayed and beat unarmed Native American protesters near the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site on Oct. 22 in North Dakota (video below).

Jihan Hafiz, a reporter for The Intercept, filmed the officers, some of whom were dressed in military fatigues and carried machine guns; others were dressed in riot gear.

The Stutsman County Sheriff's Department appeared to be using a military-style mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle. Police vans and helicopters were also on the scene.

The Native American demonstrators, including Standing Rock Sioux tribe members, oppose the pipeline because it has already destroyed some ancestral burial grounds. Some fear the pipeline will pollute drinking water and the Missouri River.

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In the beginning of the video, one demonstrator says the group members were marching over to where some other protesters had chained their bodies to construction equipment, but the demonstrators ended up being blocked by police.

At one point an unidentified officer tells the protesters: "Don’t move, everyone is under arrest."

Police then advance on the crowd, which included senior citizens, with pepper spray and batons.

Hafiz described the scene:

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As the protesters attempted to leave, the police began beating and detaining them. Several Native American women leading the march were targeted, dragged out of the crowd, and arrested. One man was body-slammed to the ground, while another woman broke her ankle running from the police.

The military and police trucks followed the protesters as nearly a hundred officers corralled the protesters into a circle. Among the arrested were journalists, a 17-year-old pregnant girl, and a 78-year-old woman.

Hafiz was one of the journalists arrested, even though she clearly identifies herself to police in the video.

According to Hafiz, more than 140 people were arrested by police and taken to a jail in Mandan, North Dakota, that was not big enough to hold everyone:

A number of women faced humiliating strip searches, which included spreading their body parts and jumping up and down while coughing. We were refused phone calls and received no food or water for eight hours after being arrested. Two women fainted from low blood sugar and another had her medication taken away, causing her to shake and sweat profusely.

Hafiz recalled that when she was released from jail, an officer told her: "Your camera is being held as evidence in a crime."

It's not clear what the alleged crime is.

"Today's situation clearly illustrates what we have been saying for weeks: that this protest is not peaceful or lawful," Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said of the arrests, reports CNN. "This protest was intentionally coordinated and planned by agitators with the specific intent to engage in illegal activities."

According to the Morton County Sheriff's Department, the illegal activities included protesters attaching themselves to construction equipment with bicycle locks and homemade handcuffs. Other protesters allegedly cut holes in construction equipment doors, put their arms through the holes and covered their arms in casts made of concrete.

Democracy Now news anchor Amy Goodman covered a similar protest by Native Americans on Sept. 3. In that video (below), security guards hired by the pipeline construction company turned dogs loose on people, who were bitten and bleeding.

Jonni Joyce, an expert in law enforcement canine handling, told Democracy Now on Sept. 6: "What I witnessed on the video was absolutely horrific and a chaotic scene. It appeared that the handlers were not trained properly in order to manage a dog that has been trained in some type of controlled aggression."

North Dakota State Attorney Ladd R. Erickson charged Goodman with criminal trespass on Sept. 8, but changed the charge to "engaging in a riot" on Oct. 14, which was then thrown out by Judge John Grinsteiner on Oct. 17.

Democracy Now reported on Oct. 26 that Morton County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Gruebele concluded in a report about the dog attack incident: "Through this investigation it has been proven that the dog handlers were not properly licensed to do security work in the State of North Dakota."

The Intercept's Jihan Hafiz On Oct. 22

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman On Sept. 3

Jonni Joyce on Democracy Now On Sept. 6

Sources: The Intercept, Democracy Now (2), CNN / Photo credit: The Intercept/YouTube

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