Multiple water protectors and their allies who stand in support of the efforts to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the U.S. were arrested on Friday at the Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. These water protectors had gathered to hold a prayer circle, raise awareness with shoppers and disseminate information on the human and environmental impacts of the pipeline. Heavily weaponised and undercover police were said to have physically assaulted and arrested close to 50 protectors within minutes of gathering peacefully.
Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network commented, “As a person born and raised in North Dakota, I’m ashamed at the violence against water protectors who wanted only to circle up and pray for the water that sustains life for all of us. This violence and racism isn’t new to me as a Native person, but it still angers me that this kind of attack, by locals and police, would happen because people don’t want an interruption to their shopping day. The climate crisis will interrupt life and destroy all of us unless we wake up to what is happening.”
“The actions by the police today further expose the interests of the state in protecting corporate interests over human life,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director of the Climate Justice Alliance, who is in North Dakota this week as part of a delegation of 100+ community leaders who are acting in solidarity with the indigenous leaders at Standing Rock. “What we witnessed today was the violent and unwarranted response that law enforcement has consistently had toward those who are acting within the law to raise awareness of the devastating impacts that the Dakota Access Pipeline could have on indigenous communities and this entire region.”
If completed, the Dakota Access Pipeline would transport oil across 1,134 miles of Native prairie land, valuable farm land and critical waterways, including the Missouri River. The pipeline most acutely endangers the drinking water for the Oceti Sakowin and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, however a spill from the oil pipeline poses an economic and environmental threat to communities across the region.
“Our delegation represents people from across the country who have suffered the impacts of environmental degradation in our own communities. We came to the mall today to show the residents of Bismarck that, while we are particularly concerned about issues of sovereignty and survival for indigenous people, we’re also here out of concern for the safety of the entire area and our future generations who will have to pay the price of the pipeline,” said Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.
In a news release, North Dakota’s Bismarck Police said 33 people had been arrested for “criminal trespass,” stating that Kirkwood Mall is “private property.” Police arrived at the scene at 12:48 p.m. and reported 100 protesters were gathered. According to police, protesters formed a prayer circle. Those who didn’t leave the premises after being told to do by police were arrested.
“Kirkwood Mall management advised BPD they would not allow any protest activities, nor any open prayer services in or on their property,” said police. “Kirkwood Mall informed police that if any of these activities occur on or in their property that any individual(s) involved need to be told to leave Kirkwood Mall property.”
Videos of the protests and subsequent arrests show at least one protester on the ground shouting “Water is life” while being arrested. Amnesty International tweeted a video of the arrests saying: “Following arrests at a North Dakota mall today, we reiterate our demand for police to respect the right to peaceful protest.”