Twenty-one water protectors were arrested in North Dakota on Wednesday after a military-style raid interrupted a peaceful prayer ceremony at a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction site.
Hundreds of demonstrators have been taking part in the prayer ceremony in recent days, according to the Red Warrior Camp, traveling to sacred sites that are being threatened by the pipeline construction, beginning Tuesday with the ancestral site where private security guards unleashed attack dogs on unarmed protesters earlier this month.
Construction was halted Tuesday as a result of the peaceful demonstration. On Wednesday, police helicopters and a circling crop-duster followed the caravan of cars south of Mandan, North Dakota.
According to the independent journalism outfit Unicorn Riot, which has been reporting live on the Dakota Access protest from the camps, after praying at the second site, "a large amount of police vehicles arrived and blockaded the only exit on the public road leading to the DAPL work site."
Unicorn Riot continued:
Dozens of militarized police with shotguns appeared with a Bearcat armored vehicle as well as a [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, also known as an MRAP]. The Bearcat was also brought out by police at yesterday’s action, but the MRAP, a larger tan colored armored vehicle, had not been seen at any DAPL sites until today.
After blockading the exit points, police vehicles sped across open fields towards the crowd of protectors as they left the site. Several arrests were made, as police brandished loaded shotguns, and assault rifles. The latest information we gathered is that there were up to 21 arrests.
The Sacred Stone Camp has started a legal defense fund to support those arrested and others involved in the direct action campaign.
Though images and videos of the raid were shared widely on social media, as others noted, there was no corporate media coverage of the arrests.
In the following video, posted on by the Red Warrior Camp, a Sacangua Lakota grandmother recalls the raid. "The next thing i knew there were like 40 police and they were all dressed in riot gear," she said. "I've never in my life seen a gun in real life and I've never had a gun pointed at me and I went into shock. I think everybody went into shock."
In another video posted by Thomas H. Joseph II, he describes how the prayer caravan was "surrounded by cops" with "their weapons out." The protectors are seen chanting, "We have no weapons! We are unarmed."
"Today's action where uncalled for, the police was a direct threat to woman and children," Joseph wrote online."We gathered in prayer un-armed, prayed, sang songs, and attempted to leave. No threats, No vandalism, No violence was taken on our part."
On Facebook, Thomas encouraged viewers to "share this," and "flood the White House with phone calls and demand Obama to act and enforce his previous declaration of no construction. With state police protecting Dakota Access Pipeline his words are meaningless."
This is not the first time that North Dakota law enforcement have acted on behalf of the oil pipeline company. But, as many pointed out, this latest show of force appeared particularly egregious. Further, as Native in D.C. blogger Marie Jordan noted, Wednesday's raid was eerily reminiscent of other historic government assaults on tribal land.
— Jordan Marie D. (@_NativeInDC) September 29, 2016