A protest in North Dakota over plans to construct an oil pipeline near tribal lands turned violent this weekend, as security guards clashed with demonstrators.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department says on its Facebook page private security officers were assaulted and two guard dogs injured on Saturday afternoon when they were confronted by protests who “broke down a wire fence and stampeded into the construction area, which is on private property.”
But the Sheriff’s Office’s postings on Facebook – such as the one below – has met with hundreds of comments from people accusing the department of mis-representing what happened, presenting a one-sided view of proceedings.
Tribe spokesman Steve Sitting Bear told CBS that six people had been bitten by security dogs, including a young child, and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed by the private guards, meanwhile the authorities said it had received no reports of protesters being injured.
There was no police at the site when the clashes happened, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman told the TV station, and by the time they arrived the crowd had dispersed.
On Facebook, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said: “Any suggestion that this was a peaceful protest, is false. This was more like a riot than a protest.
“Individuals crossed onto private property and accosted private security officers with wooden posts and flag poles. While no arrests were made at the scene, we are actively investigating the incident and individuals who organized and participated in this unlawful event.”
The protest has been called the largest gathering of Native Americans in modern times, as they join to protest the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline between the Bakken oil fields and Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux argues the pipeline – which runs within half a mile of their reservation – is a threat to their Missouri River water supply, with a lawsuit filed on behalf of the tribe arguing a permit has been issued for the pipeline to cross rivers without a full review.
Proponents of the pipeline say it will reduce the amount of oil that needs to be transported by truck or train.
The protests started last month and there have been dozens of arrests since it got underway.
Minnesota’s Native community has pledged their support to the protesters via a resolution issued on Friday by the Upper Sioux Community, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Prairie Island Indian Community, and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
“This lack of consultation is contrary to the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government,” its statement says.
It adds that they “urge the United States government to honor this relationship with tribes by reversing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to approve the location of the DAPL Missouri River Crossing and engaging in proper consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”