The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,885km crude oil delivery pipeline running from Bakken, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.
If completed, it will transport as many as 570,000 barrels of oil per day.
However, the construction of the line has been delayed by protesters calling themselves “Water Protectors”, and organising under the banner #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline).
They argue that the construction of this pipeline infringes on Native American land, and has the potential to damage the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The tribe has previously tried to sue the US Army Corps of Engineers, who are involved in the construction of the pipeline, as they allege the pipeline threatens their environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of historic, religious and cultural significance.The tribe say that because the pipeline goes underneath Lake Oahe, approximately half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation, leaks from the pipeline could directly affect the tribe’s ancestral lands and water supply.
While the legal challenge to the construction failed, there have been continued protests at the site, some of which have turned violent.
What is happening now?
Protesters hoped that the election of Donald Trump to the White House may work in their favour, though there have been no signs to suggest he may consider stopping construction so far.
Instead, protests at the construction site in North Dakota have intensified.
On Sunday 20 November, around 400 protesters started fires in what the Morton County Sheriff’s Department called a “riot”.
In response, the Police used a water cannon in an attempt to disperse protesters. They were heavily criticised for this action, due to the temperature dropping to as low as -2 Celsius.
This video shows the police using the high pressured water cannon against the demonstrators.
Protesters and journalists at the scene also reported tear gas, concussion grenades and rubber bullets being used against the protesters by police.
Quick story from last night. I had just gotten back to the front lines after the medics treated me for getting tear gassed…the first time. As I'm framing up a shot of the riot police lineup through my viewfinder, I hear a loud pop in the distance. The woman standing beside me, probably half my size, goes down hard. I thought she slipped on the ice (the pavement had frozen by that point due hours of being sprayed with the water cannon). She wasn't responding. It wasn't until I found this next to her body that I knew she didn't slip – she was shot. Moments later, she woke up and became hysterical – rightfully so. Turns out, the rubber bullet got her right in the head. As the volunteer medics pulled her away through the chaos, I looked in the direction where the shot came from. There I saw him, a cop with full face head gear, holding the orange shotgun that took the woman out. I couldn't see his eyes, but I know he saw mine. He raised his hand, and started shaking his finger at me. It was in that moment that I realized he missed his shot, because that bullet was meant for me. Another photographer came up to me and asked if I was alright. I told him what happened, and he wasn't surprised. He later revealed that press working alongside the 'Water Protectors' have been targeted by law enforcement since day one of the movement. They'll arrest you, “lose your memory card” in jail processing, and your story's gone. Or the quick version, try taking me out with a rubber bullet from a shotgun. A cop who'd rather see me be knocked unconscious than to publish a story – I'll be honest, it shook me. The only problem for him, it just validated how important this story really is. And because of that, I'll continue telling it to the best of my ability. So just a piece of advice to the next guy who tries to take my ass out. Save your bullets, because my shot will always be more powerful than yours.
16 people were arrested on Monday in connection with the protests, and Kyle Kirchmeier, Moreton Country sheriff, defended the decision to use the water cannon as “it was used at a time where (sic) they were aggressive towards the officers”.
Dallas Goldtooth, a spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the activist groups at Standing Rock, told the Reuters that using a water cannon on our people – that is an excessive and potentially deadly use of force
On Monday evening, protests spread to Los Angeles, where protesters targeted the CNN building.
Demonstrators chanted “Water is life”, and even “CNN stop lying”.
Activists from AIM SoCal, the organisation who arranged the protest, said it was targeting the the “propaganda” being spread by the “mainstream media”:https://www.facebook.com/events/1114208141962245/ , or MSM.
Alongside President-elect Trump’s pro-oil standpoint he has also offended Native American protesters in North Dakota by calling one of their biggest advocates in Washington DC, Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”. The comparison was widely regarded as racist, including by Warren herself
In early November, President Obama gave an interview in which he discussed the Pipeline and the #NoDAPL protests.He said that “There is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans”, and Army Corps are investigating other possible routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline. He went on to describe the situation as “challenging” but added that “there’s an obligation for protesters to be peaceful and there’s an obligation for authorities to show restraint”.