Throughout the peaceful protest that water protectors are waging against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, rumors have swirled about potential threats to public safety—rumors that have been refuted by numerous images and accounts of what is actually happening.
It started with claims on August 17 by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier that those standing against the pipeline were compromising safety and continued this past weekend, when North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple went so far as to declare a state of emergency across several counties in order to free up federal funds.
“They were preparing to throw pipe bombs at our line, M80s, fireworks, things of that nature, to disrupt us,” Kirchmeier told reporters. “And that in itself makes it an unlawful protest.”
Though Dalrymple stopped short of activating the National Guard, he issued an executive order implying that public safety was at risk.
“The State of North Dakota remains committed to protecting citizens’ rights to lawfully assemble and protest, but the unfortunate fact remains that unlawful acts associated with the protest near Cannon Ball have led to serious public safety concerns and property damage,” Dalrymple said in his statement declaring the emergency. “This emergency declaration simply allows us to bring greater resources to bear if needed to help local officials address any further public safety concerns.”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault II countered such claims. While acknowledging the “pressure that Governor Dalrymple is working under,” Archambault said the declaration was uncalled for and “unfortunate.”
“I wish he had consulted with the tribe before making today’s declaration, because the tribe has its hand extended in the spirit of partnership and cooperation,”Archambault said. “We look upon this situation as an opportunity to work together.
He re-emphasized the focus on peaceful demonstration.
“Tribal leaders are committed to nonviolence and peaceful prayer as the guiding principle of Cannon Ball River camps. We are doing everything in our power to promote that spirit,” Archambault said. “This is an opportunity to work together in a spirit of cooperation, and we should take advantage of that opportunity.”
With a gathering that has swelled to more than 3,000 people and counting, friction and conflict might not be out of the realm of possibility. But the opposite is in fact the case: accounts and pictures abound of police officers taking off their hats in respect for the daily morning prayers being conducted at the construction site; police shaking hands with a little girl; officers being smudged.
Here are six images of how the dynamics are really playing out on the ground, including one issued by the Bismarck Police Department itself.