The righteous protests of Standing Rock

The North Dakota oil pipeline protests turned violent, the news media say! And what’s the first thing they tell us?

Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Donnell Preskey said four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured after several hundred protesters confronted construction crews Saturday afternoon at the site just outside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. One of the security officers was taken to a Bismarck hospital for undisclosed injuries. The two guard dogs were taken to a Bismarck veterinary clinic, Preskey said.

Security guards and attack dogs got hurt. Wait…why were there even dogs there, and what were those dogs doing? Don’t the bulldozers tearing up the countryside count as “violent”? What about the pepper spray getting fired into people’s faces?

Then they mention the casualties among the unarmed protesters, which law enforcement tries to pretend didn’t happen.

Tribe spokesman Steve Sitting Bear said protesters reported that six people had been bitten by security dogs, including a young child. At least 30 people were pepper-sprayed, he said. Preskey said law enforcement authorities had no reports of protesters being injured.

I’ll spare you the photo of the Indian child with a face lacerated and bloodied by dogs. Instead, I’ll just recommend that you watch Amy Goodman’s on-the-scene coverage of the protest.

I’ll also show you another scene of unimaginable violence. This is what happened when an oil pipeline ruptured in the Moscow River last year.

Now why wouldn’t the Indians want that kind of spectacular spectacle in their water supply?

Hey, there’s nothing to fear from a pipeline! Except for sudden unexplained explosions and a flame-thrower like geyser of flame that can incinerate people 200 meters away. As happened in New Mexico this weekend, killing 10 people (5 of them children).

The 30-inch pipeline exploded around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, and left a crater about 86 feet long, 46 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Police say the resulting fire probably lasted 30 to 40 minutes. It reportedly was visible about 20 miles to the north in Carlsbad, N.M.

Authorities said one end of the ruptured line became a virtual flame-thrower, showering fire on the victims camped beneath a bridge about 200 yards away.

“The evidence out there at the scene indicates it was horrendously hot,” State Police Capt. John Balderston said. “It incinerated everything in its path. If it burned for as long as we think it burned, that explains the extensive damage to the vehicles and to the property and people.

The pipeline company doesn’t see the problem.

John Somerhalder, president of the pipeline group of El Paso Energy, the parent company of El Paso Natural Gas Co., says his company is cooperating fully with investigators. But he adds he believes the explosion was an accident.

“We saw no indication there was third party damage or foul play,” Somerhalder said. “It is, was a very major tragedy that occurred [Saturday], and it occurred as a result of a rupture of one of our pipelines.”

It was just an accident! No one is at fault! Sure, we occasionally incinerate small children, but you certainly can’t blame El Paso Energy!

Does anyone still wonder why the people of the Standing Rock reservation might be a teensy bit irate at a pipeline being built across their water supply?


  1. qwints says

    Harm to things is not violence but vandalism – equating the two is a canard pushed by state forces that want to justify their attacks protestors. Blurring that line does a disservice to the nations trying to protect their land through peaceful means.

    Democracy Now continues their excellent tradition of amazing coverage. The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies only pose a threat to profit not people.

  2. says

    And Then the Dogs Came: Dakota Access Gets Violent.

    Holiday Desecration and Destruction. Updated.

    The Whitestone Massacre.

    Kirchmeier, Morton County sheriff, has been lying from the beginning. He’s the idiot who thought peace pipes mean pipe bombs. The dog attacks and gassing was orchestrated so that DA could go in and destroy the sacred sites – the papers and maps had just been filed for the injunction, and those evil motherfuckers used it as a map to destroy the burial cairn and the prayer stones. Those are gone now, forever.

    The cops were up on a hill watching the dog attacks – they didn’t do one thing about it. Oh, well, they lied later on, I guess that’s something.

    We’re heading out to the camps today. Should be back Thursday. Of course, if I’m gassed, dog bit, or arrested, might be a bit longer.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    While it is worth mentioning the harm to canines, who have no decision in who they attack, it is shameful they are mentioned first and highlighted as THE casualties while pushing the Protestors casualties down to the bottom of the page. And to throw in a Simpsons quote, “what about the children?”. appears a child was injured by the attack dogs (K9s); to quote: “people had been bitten by security dogs, including a young child.“.

  4. Infophile says

    @1 qwints: I recommend you watch this video by PBS Idea Channel about another way to define “violence”:

    For those who can’t watch, it basically boils down to violence being the constraint of options, which can be split up into physical violence (bodily harm and vandalism, which physically prevent things) and structural violence (eg. when a subset of people are denied certain rights). This perspective has some utility in looking at whether or not physical violence is justifiable. If we justify violence only in self-defense, physical violence might still be justifiable in response to structural violence. For instance, if you’re denied the right to vote and asking nicely for it doesn’t work, you’re denied any option to gain that right aside from engaging in violence of some sort. Hence, when people riot because they’re oppressed, maybe we don’t have to try to weasel around it – it’s self-defense against structural violence.

    Obviously, we have to keep proportionality in mind. Just because something is said to be in self-defense doesn’t make it alright if it’s disproportionate. If someone tries to punch me and I respond by grabbing their arm, fine. If I respond by shooting them, not fine. If I’m unjustly denied the right to vote and I respond by getting engaging in disruptive behavior such as sit-ins so people will pay attention, fine. If I respond by setting fire to all polling stations so no one else can vote, not fine.

    Here, you have the government forcing through an oil pipeline against the wishes of the populace. That’s structural violence. You have protesters lining up to prevent it – also structural violence, but proportionate self-defense. We can further break down who’s right and wrong here without worrying about the label “violence”; we just need to think about whether responses are proportionate.

  5. qwints says

    Infophile@5, I don’t find the video persuasive at all. It’s a bunch of nonsense reification based on disparate and unpersuasive sources (why should the FBI’s definition of violent crime or a director’s thought on art shape how I feel about a term?). Its definition of violence is fundamentally incoherent and lacks the moral weight of the commonly understood definition (doing physical harm to a being).

    It really matters that the protestors are using non-violent direct action while their attackers are using violence. Over and over again, I’ve seen police and security forces justify their assaults by calling protesters violent. Nonviolent direct action to prevent the destruction of sacred things and places is obviously justified and deserves our support. To save everyone a few clicks, Support the Camps

  6. says

    Those Sioux need to get some a Bundy or two to do their violence for them if they don’t want so much stress from the cops. They could probably go for years.

  7. Ruby says

    I’ll spare you the photo of the Indian child with a face lacerated and bloodied by dogs.

    RawStory had an article a few days ago that also had picture of dogs with blood on their mouths.

    Also, I’ve heard unsubstantiated reports that the injured handlers were bit by their own, shittely trained dogs.

  8. Infophile says

    @6 qwints: Yeah, the video isn’t intended to be a persuasive argument, but rather “here’s another way we could look at this.” In this case, my point is that if we limit our definition of “violence” to direct bodily harm, then we lose out on the ability to use it as a descriptor for indirect harm.

    To keep things on-subject here: If an oil pipeline is forced through, and it later leaks, poisoning people in the region who rely on the groundwater, that’s bodily harm. Does that count as violence?

    @9 Giliell: In situations like this, people are always out to get the protesters for being disruptive or violent. I’m trying to head off that argument through presenting it in a framework as self-defense against the structural violence they’re up against, and provide others here with a tool to use to rebut the standard frame that ignores this fact. My apologies if I’m not showing sufficient empathy – for my own mental health, I can’t get emotionally invested in every atrocity around the world. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to contribute productively, though.

  9. says

    Let me make this more clear: Have you chipped in a few bucks for the Protectors? Have you signed the petition? Have you tweeted about this, posted on Facebook, written Emails, made calls, made friends and relatives aware? In short, have you done anything the people in this fight are asking you to do in their support? Or is your contribution limited to derailing a thread about their fight on Pharyngula?

  10. Infophile says

    Oh, I see: Looking to fight the long fight is derailing. Gotcha. Go ahead, fight today’s battle all you want. That doesn’t make strategizing for the war derailing.

    Did I miss the part of the post that outlines what aspects of this story are acceptable to discuss here? It certainly covers the biased media reporting on who the targets of violence are, and my comment ties into that. It’s not what you want to discuss, sure, but that doesn’t make it off-topic.

  11. Infophile says

    You know, I’d say discussion over what is or is not off-topic is more off-topic than anything else. I’m gonna step back from that in this thread.

  12. says

    Oh, I see: Looking to fight the long fight is derailing. Gotcha. Go ahead, fight today’s battle all you want. That doesn’t make strategizing for the war derailing.

    Are you an American Indian currently affected by this? No? Then all your drivel about “the long fight” is just you making this about yourself and what you want instead of the Protectors and their fight for water NOW.
    It’S not like the internet doesn’t have a lot of space where you could do your “strategizing”.

    P.S. I assume that’s a “No” to all the questions I asked.

  13. Crimson Clupeidae says

    spaceboy@15, double check the link to the pipeline explosion that PZ linked. That just happened this past weekend (9/5/16), so that makes two big pipeline explosions in the same area in the last 16 years. That’s not a good average, considering a failure in a different location of the pipeline has the potential to be much, much worse.

  14. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Crimson Clupeidae,

    spaceboy is right. For whatever reason, the story in PZ’s link is dated yesterday, but it’s a copy of this ABC news report, dated August 20 (no year given). But there are a couple more clues to this being an old story: first, this report from the NTSB on the 2000 accident, which matches the details in the story, and second, the fact that the story references Gary Johnson as the governor, despite the fact that he left office in 2003.

  15. keithb says

    Also, something like this would be all over the news, and there is only the one abc news story.

  16. Anton Mates says

    Also, I’ve heard unsubstantiated reports that the injured handlers were bit by their own, shittely trained dogs.

    Well, it’s not as though a dog can be trained to do this job correctly. Look at the video–the handlers are basically throwing the dogs at a crowd of shouting people, then yanking them back when they decide the action is too intense. The dogs are frantically trying to guard themselves and their handlers from everyone in front of them. All a dog can do in that situation is a) piss itself and try to hide under the handler, or b) bite everything in sight.

    As the DoJ report on Ferguson pointed out, there’s simply no responsible way to use dogs for crowd control. El Paso Energy sent security out with attack dogs because they expected the dogs to attack, and every resultant injury to a human or a dog is on them.