Lakota Country Times: #NoDAPL roadblock remains a major issue

Law enforcement in North Dakota continue to restrict travel to and from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier defended the "traffic control point" in a statement on August 30 but said he is in talks with #NoDAPL resistance leaders about removing it. "Those interested in gathering with other protestors at the camp sites are not being prohibited from going there," Kirchmeier said in the statement. "They simply need to take an alternate route that will minimize traffic through the protest area." Photo by Morton County Sheriff's Department

ACLU: Free Speech Violated In Cannon Ball
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

CANNON BALL – Many Native people who have traveled to North Dakota to speak out against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline have been met with stiff resistance in the form of police surveillance, military style roadblocks, racial profiling and blocked roads.

The actions by the State of North Dakota have resulted in the American Civil Liberties Union issuing statement claiming that the impact of these actions has resulted in the violation of free speech of water protectors in the area.

"The right to protest is fundamental to our democracy and the interference with that right by agents of the counties and the state of North Dakota violates both the spirit and letter of the First Amendment. As the courts in this state have recognized, the First Amendment forbids the enactment of laws ‘abridging the freedom of speech ... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.’ The protest at the Dakota Access pipeline is precisely the type of assembly protected by the First Amendment," said Jennifer Cook, policy director of the ACLU of North Dakota.

"Peaceful protest is at the core of the First Amendment and restrictions to such activity, such as the closing of highways with the effect of preventing assembly or effective messaging of protesters, should be viewed skeptically. Law enforcement agents have a duty to ensure that the rights of protesters are protected, not just the rights of corporations," Cook said. "While law enforcement officers have a right to ensure the safety of all of our citizens, this goal should be achieved by ensuring that all citizens, including protesters, are protected and that there are enough police in place to prevent violence, but not prevent peaceful protest or assembly."

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County officials near the gathering have asked for emergency funds to be released to beef up law enforcement and to pay overtime to its officers who have manned the highway checkpoints that include double stacked concrete barricades and heavily armed militarized police.

Statements made at a Morton County board meeting last Tuesday included rhetoric that called for a national guard presence at the protector camps.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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