By Jack Burns
International attention has been turned to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the attempts at peaceful protest, by primarily Native American people groups, have been met with aggressive and abusive police sate tactics. Despite international calls to allow the protesters to peacefully resist DAPL’s construction, by groups like Amnesty International, abuses by the police continue.
An alderman (city council member) from Madison, WI, Rebecca Kemble, went to the front lines of the protest, to personally deliver a resolution of solidarity from her county to Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, David Archambault II (a leader of the protest). Madison’s resolution, “describes the value of sacred sites, government-to-government relations with Tribes, and the vital importance of protecting the water, and calls for more public education and for the US Army Corps of Engineers to halt all permitting processes until robust, free and informed consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been conducted.” Kemble was also bringing a load of supplies to the protesters and was preparing to deliver both on Sunday the 9th of October while serving as a legal observer, a role in which she’d already received training.
She put on a hat with the words, “National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer,” grabbed her camera, and went out to observe. “I heard the MC of the ceremony let people know that the police were arriving and that if they were not prepared to be arrested they should return to the road and the public right of way,” Kemble wrote admitting she was standing on the outside fringe of the protesters who’d already gathered to voice their opposition to the pipeline’s creation.
She described the police arrival as a military formation march and said one of the first arrests made was that of the Native American “police liaison” who was supposedly working with the police commander in charge to coordinate peaceful protests.
Kemble continued her first-person narrative of the scene and said police warned them, as they advanced their front lines, which if the police “touch you” then “you’re going to be arrested.” She admitted to quickly backing up but said the police officer nearest her lunged at her, pushing her up against the pipes behind her.
Describing the incident she writes;
I backed up as much as I could, but I was hemmed in by the pipeline pipes that were sitting on the ground. He then lunged at me, went straight for my arm holding the camera and yanked my hands behind my back. I kept a hold of my camera, and behind my back tried to close the viewfinder to protect the camera from damage. That’s when he yelled, ‘now I’m arresting you for destruction of evidence and criminal trespass’ and grabbed the camera away from me. When another Deputy grabbed me and began to push me across the excavated path, I said in a very calm voice, ‘I will comply peacefully with your verbal commands. You don’t have to push me.’ Later I saw the camera lying on the ground 20 feet away from where I was initially accosted by the officer. In addition to the 16 people sitting in the tipi, 9 other people (including me), were handcuffed and lined up against a pipe while the arresting officers filled out their affidavits. We were all transported to the jail in Mandan, ND. While we were in the garage of the jail awaiting processing, actress Shailene Woodley was escorted in by two officers. Apparently she was arrested as she tried to get into her vehicle to leave the scene. I spent the night in jail and was bonded out the next day. As far as I know, of the people arrested on Monday I am the person with the most charges: the two that everyone else received (criminal trespass, inciting a riot), and also resisting arrest and destruction of evidence. My camera was seized as evidence and may have been damaged or destroyed given that the last time I saw it, it was lying on the ground far away from the place where it was last in my possession. My court date is on January 12. I will be fighting the charges.
Alder Kemble’s narrative follows other stories The Free Thought Project has chronicled, including that of award-winning journalist Amy Goodman. It seems, if Kemble’s account is accurate, journalists are especially targeted for arrest and prosecution of what should be peaceful protests but are anything but peaceful on the part of the police. Take the following additional story as an example, brought to us by the Huffington Post.
According to the Post, an Arapaho girl (also reportedly at the prayer ceremony with Kemble) was forcefully arrested, having her face smashed into the cold 20-degree mud, an officer’s knee over the back of her neck. “She was hauled to the Morton County jail, strip searched, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and charged with criminal trespass and engaging in a riot,” the Post writes adding it was the first time she’d ever been in trouble with the law.
According to unnamed sources within the Native American’s protesting, people are being forced to undo their braids, considered sacred, because officers fear the protesters are hiding weapons inside the braids. The protesters are reportedly also being arrested off-premises and harassed in town by intimidating as well.
Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier is the Morton County official in charge of operations along the pipeline. If you’d like to call, write, or text Sheriff Kirchmeier and encourage him to respect the U.S. Constitution’s rights of citizens to peacefully protest, you may do so by clicking here.
There is also a petition to remove Sheriff Kirchmeier. You can view the petition by clicking here. The petition already has 3,710 signatures of 5,000 needed.
As Kemble concluded her eyewitness account of attempting to peacefully protest, she wrote, “I witnessed and felt the depths of the human rights crisis facing their community. The day that we left, a Standing Rock woman was arrested at a traffic stop, taken to jail and strip searched in front of four male Deputies.” Kemble reportedly told the Post she too had been strip searched and forced to remove her “scrawny” braids.