with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be the latest agency
assisting Morton County Sheriff Department deputies to
guard Dakota Access pipeline construction as it prepares to drill
under the Missouri River. But as tensions mount, along with costs to
keep up with militarized attacks on water protectors, there are signs
that North Dakota’s resources are stretching thin.
Kyle Kirchmeier announced the aid of CBP officers Monday following
the most violent confrontation yet near the Standing Rock Sioux
reservation. Dozens of activists were hospitalized after
Sunday night’s standoff when police sprayed water on hundreds of
people in 26-degree temperatures and fired what has been described as
concussion grenades. One activist, Sophia Wilansky, 21, may face the
amputation of her arm.
before Sunday’s subfreezing assault on the Backwater Bridge, the
escalating violence, the toll of mass arrests—528 as of Monday—and
the routine response todemonstrations were taking
their toll on local agencies. The policing costs have reached nearly
$15 million. The courts are taxed. The jail is burdened. The 34
local law enforcement officers are stressed.
this comes amid an increasingly loud public outcry against the
campaigns to contact the people and agencies responsible for sending
officers and equipment to aid Morton County in the assaults on water
protectors have in some cases been effective. YES! Magazine published
information Oct. 31, and
in less than a month, the Facebook post had reached more than half a
million people with commenters trading stories about their
experiences making complaints.
was intense public response that led Montana’s Gallatin County
Sheriff Brian Gootkin to literally turn his detail around. He and his
deputies were en route to Morton County when Gov.
Steve Bullock raised concerns about the potential misuse of
the interstate statute. The Emergency Management Assistance
Compact obligates law enforcement around the country to fulfill
requests for aid under any form of emergency or disaster.
got messages from England, Poland, New Zealand, Australia,” Gootkin
recalled. And he received phone calls and hundreds of emails from
his constituents, too — people that may have elected him
sheriff. They were concerned about the use of force on protesters,
Oct. 27, he said, and also had been affected by the public outrage
from Minneapolis’ Hennepin County
said the callers and emailers believed the EMAC was meant for natural
disasters and catastrophic events like 9/11, not for protecting a
corporation’s pipeline construction. All that caused Sheriff
Gootkin to change his mind. He turned to Facebook to post his
stand down on Standing Rock:
“Although my actions were
well-intentioned, you made it clear that you do not want your
Sheriff’s Office involved in this conflict. One of the biggest
differences of an elected Sheriff from other law enforcement leaders
is that I am directly accountable to the people I serve (YOU).”
was not an easy choice to make, Gootkin said. “I wanted to go and
help my fellow law enforcement.” Then, he raised a question that
has begun to rattle many communities across America lately. “I just
don’t understand where we separated from the public. It really
breaks my heart. We are not the enemy.”
Dave Mahoney from Wisconsin’s Dane County was also empathetic to
those decrying deployment of his officers. “All share the opinion
that our deputies should not be involved in this situation,”
Mahoney told the Bismarck
He and his unit stood by Morton County officers for one week before
pulling out and refusing to return.
week, the ACLU released the most comprehensive list of law
enforcement participating in the conflict at Standing Rock, 75
agencies total, all believed to be operating under the EMAC
agreement. The ACLU’s current list of agency support to Morton
County can be found here.
the $15 million spent so far to protect the pipeline construction ,
$4.4 million has been spent by Morton County alone, officials
said. The figure also includes more than $10 million in state
emergency funds, according to Cecily Fong, spokeswoman for the
North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. Fong told the
Associated Press that protest-related law enforcement costs reached
$10.9 million dollars last week, including $6 million
borrowed from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota in September and
an additional $4 million on Nov. 1.
it seems likely that the state will need to request even more money
from its Emergency Commission. In a press conference two days prior
to Sunday’s violence, Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed frustration in
the ongoing police action against protesters. “We’re incurring
expenses every day,” Dalrymple said.
governor has pressed the Obama administration for federal aid in
responding to the escalating conflict. He has suggested the U.S.
Marshal Service step in to evictthousands of protectors who have
occupied U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land. “They are camped
without a permit,” Dalrymple said of those occupying the mass
encampment near the Backwater Bridge blockade. “In other words,
the Obama administration has refused to do that, opting to sit down
with the Standing Rock Sioux and negotiate a solution. It has asked
that construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline stop until one is
reached, but Energy Transfer has refused. It is now suing the federal
government and meanwhile continuing to advance the pipeline.
the absence of federal assistance, Morton County has had to rely on
the EMAC and support from police agencies nationwide. Since early
August, the sheriff’s department says that nearly 1,300 officers
have come from 24 counties, 16 cities, across nine different states.
The farthest traveled
was the president of the National Sheriff’s Association, Greg
Champagne of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. He arrived Oct. 28, the
day after Morton County led its heavily militarized removal of
occupants from the “1851 Treaty Camp.” In a
lengthy post on
Facebook, Champagne commended the multiagency action while taking
special care to praise Minnesota’s Hennepin County Sheriff Rich
Stanek. He said they were “protecting lives and property” that
in the aftermath of the violent Oct. 27 raid, the number of law
enforcement agencies assisting Morton County has dwindled — in
some instances, because of the pipeline‘s polarizing effect.
Hennepin County has received some of the loudest public outrage as
taxpayers, voters, even state lawmakers turned out to denounce
Sheriff Stanek’s decision to send Minnesota personnel and equipment
to Standing Rock.
“I do not have any control over the Sheriff’s
actions, which I think were wrong,” said Lt. Gov. Tina Smith in a
prepared statement. “I believe he should bring his deputies home,
if he hasn’t already. I strongly support the rights of all people
to peacefully protest, including, tonight, the Standing Rock
a nine-day stint in North Dakota, Sheriff Stanek said enlisting 29 of
his deputies to serve on Morton County’s front lines was “the
right thing to do.”
he also said his deputies would not be returning