Right now on a North Dakota prairie, nonviolent protesters are being confronted by police in riot gear with armored military vehicles, automatic rifles, sonic weapons, concussion grenades, attack dogs, pepper spray, and beanbag bullets.
This sovereign nation of the Standing Rock Sioux – one of many constantly threatened by environmental injustice – is fighting to keep its water safe and clean by means of an historic protest.
But law enforcement agencies are treating them like wartime enemies. Riot police raiding a protest camp even yanked indigenous people from prayer in sweat lodges.
North Dakota has received $3 million worth of military equipment from the federal government through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. On top of that, more than a half dozen states have sent equipment and officers to North Dakota.
The Department of Justice can help stop this militarized response to indigenous activists and their allies fighting for clean water. It oversees the various federal programs that may have supplied much of the equipment being used against protesters – and it can put those oversight measures to use.
Thousands from across the globe have joined in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline could destroy ancestral burial grounds and poison the water supply for an entire sovereign nation and millions of Americans downstream who rely on the Missouri River. This is worth standing up for – these brutal police tactics are not appropriate or just.