Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rural white community fearful of Native American pipeline protest; arrest warrant issued for reporter

In rural Morton County, North Dakota (Wikipedia map), residents say Native American protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest are disrupting their lives and causing safety concerns, Jack Healy reports for The New York Times. "Ranchers and residents in the conservative, overwhelmingly white countryside view the protests with a mix of frustration and fear, reflecting the deep cultural divides and racial attitudes in Indian country." Jack Schaaf, a 60-year-old resident of St. Anthony, N.D., told Healy, “You get 2,000, 3,000 Natives together — is it safe?”

Residents in Morton County, which is 92 percent white and next to the state capital of Bismarck, have complained of having to pass armed guard checkpoints to go out to dinner or of lakes having been closed, shutting down locals from boating, Healy writes.

National Guard directs traffic in Morton County,
North Dakota (NYT photo by Alyssa Schukar)
But mostly they fear for their safety from an influx of unwanted visitors, Healy writes. "Residents have complained to the Morton County sheriff that out-of-state cars were playing chicken with them on the two-lane rural Highway 1806 that leads to the camp. They say strangers have walked onto their property to videotape them or have stolen hay from their pastures. One rancher said he was driving his tractor out to his field when a group of masked men on a rural county road tried to approach him." Sheriff’s officers also have been escorting the local school bus.

Tribal members, though, say their protest poses no threat to anyone, Healy writes. Jana Gipp, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux who lives on 130 acres along the Missouri River, told Healy, “We don’t know our neighbors. They don’t know that we’re hard workers. We don’t all drink. We have jobs. We have to support our families.”

Arrest warrant issued for reporter covering protest

Trespassing charges against a reporter covering the Dakota Access Pipeline protest are being called an attempt by police to silence the media, Caroline Grueskin reports for The Bismarck Tribune. Steve Andrist, executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, told the Tribune in an email, "There were a lot of people at the protest site, and only two of them were charged. One was a reporter, and that certainly creates the impression that the authorities were attempting to silence a journalist and prevent her from telling an important story."

Police say reporter Amy Goodman of the liberal radio show Democracy Now! was not targeted for being a journalist, but because she was easy to identify on video, Grueskin writes: Goodman was charged in Morton County "with one count of trespassing, based on video footage of her at a protest site on private property during Labor Day weekend, according to court documents. A warrant was issued for her arrest."

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