Court Battles

Federal judge sides with law enforcement in Dakota Access pipeline protest suit

A federal judge ruled in favor of law enforcement officials in a lawsuit brought by protesters who demonstrated against the Dakota Access pipeline and alleged excessive use of force by police in 2016.

The suit, filed in 2017, claimed police fired water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas and exploding munitions “indiscriminately” into the crowd, according to The Bismarck Tribune. At the time, demonstrators and police clashed at the border of Stand Rock Sioux Reservation in freezing temperatures. 

Lawyers for the defendants, which included Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler, alleged that officers were outnumbered and that they feared for their lives. 

U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor said police conduct was reasonable in the face of an “unprecedented” protest, the Tribune reported. 

“The most telling of the entire situation is the fact that officers issued two code red requests and a Signal 100, requesting the assistance of every available officer in the state,” Traynor wrote in his decision. “This has never been done in North Dakota history.”

The Dakota Access pipeline is an oil pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois for 1,172 miles and began operating in 2017.

After it was approved in January 2016, about 300 protesters demonstrated against the pipeline, arguing that it would negatively impact the environment and Native American burial grounds.

The demonstrators clashed with police in November of that year.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs who brought the suit for protesters said the ruling “effectively legitimizes launching an hours-long barrage of freezing water, explosives and highly dangerous munitions into a crowd of demonstrators,” according to The Bismarck Tribune.

It’s unclear at this time if the plaintiffs will appeal the case, and The Hill has reached out for additional comment.

County Assistant State’s Attorney Gabrielle Goter, who represented the defendants, said in a statement she was pleased with the ruling, The Associated Press reported.

Tags lawsuit North Dakota police

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