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County sheriff leads investigation into #NoDAPL confrontation amid questions about role






Democracy Now! on YouTube: Dakota Access Pipeline Company Attacks Native American Protesters with Dogs & Pepper Spray

A North Dakota law enforcement official whose handling of the #NoDAPL movement has been less than stellar has launched an investigation into an incident that helped draw more attention to the struggle.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier on Tuesday announced a "task force" to look into the September 3 incident that drew widespread condemnation. Private security guards working for the Dakota Access Pipeline unleashed dogs and used mace against #NoDAPL resisters, causing injuries to several people, including a pregnant woman and a young girl.

The confrontation was well documented on social media and by highly-regarded journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, whose video report has has been viewed more than 952,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon. Yet so far it has only led to charges of criminal trespass against seven #NoDAPL resisters and even against Goodman.

"This company has used attack dogs to harm individuals who tried to protect our water and sacred sites," Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday as he took the #NoDAPL movement to the international stage.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Chairman Dave Archambault II at United Nations Human Rights Council

"I condemn all violence, including the use of guard dogs," Archambault said.

Despite the questions about his role in the confrontation -- his deputies watched from a distance and did not intervene at the time -- Kirchmeier insisted that his investigation will not be biased against anyone. Yet he has repeatedly used his department's Facebook page to call out #NoDAPL resisters, often accusing them of crimes before any charges have been brought in the justice system.

The sheriff has not done the same to the private security guards, instead painting them as victims. But, as part of the probe, he said he will look into their actions and try to determine whether they were properly licensed.

"This task force is an investigative tool comprised of law enforcement and detectives with specific areas of expertise to gather, evaluate and possibly prosecute for crimes. I am using all tools possible to insure this investigation is carried out with no bias toward Dakota Access Pipeline nor the pipeline protestors," Kirchmeier said in a statement.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department is leading an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the protest on...

Posted by Morton County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Morton County Sheriff's Department on Facebook: Task Force into #NoDAPL confrontation on September 3, 2016

Kirchmeier also said the Bureau of Indian Affairs has agreed to participate in the task force. As of Wednesday afternoon, the agency had yet to confirm its involvement in the effort.

Additionally, Kirchmeier plans to investigate the whether any "native artifacts were disturbed" at the Dakota Access work site in question. Based on the agencies on the task force -- which consists of local, state and BIA law enforcement officials, according to the statement -- it's not clear whether they have any expertise in that regard.

And the place where the confrontation occurred is just one part of a wider area where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reported significant cultural sites and burial grounds. A determination on that specific area would not necessarily speak to the larger concerns raised as part of an ongoing lawsuit in federal court.

"This company has knowingly destroyed sacred sites and our ancestral graves with bulldozers," Archambault said during his remarks in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday.


Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier speaks at a press conference in North Dakota on September 8, 2016. Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) stands to Kirchmeier's right. Photo from Facebook

Morton County is overwhelmingly non-Indian despite its presence near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 4.1 percent of the population is Native American or Alaska Native.

The elected leadership is non-Indian as well. Rather than welcome or offer services to the #NoDAPL encampment, the county commission declared an "emergency" last month and its chairman, Cody Schulz, told resisters to leave after a federal judge thousands of miles away issued a ruling that allowed construction on the pipeline to continue.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, has since ordered a halt to construction on both side of Lake Oahe in North Dakota, an area that includes the sites the tribe is trying to protect. A hearing will be scheduled to determine whether a permanent injunction is warranted, if at all.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals #NoDAPL Injunction:
Order: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (September 16, 2016)

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