Category: Dakota Access (page 1 of 4)

The desperate fight spearheaded by North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Big Oil to save water and sacred indigenous lands. Known as the largest gathering of indigenous tribes since “Custer’s Last Stand” 140 years ago, native peoples and activists across the world flock to this Peace Garden State to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline.

‘We are here, and are not afraid’

The pipeline fighter who nearly lost an arm is still wrestling the FBI

By C.S. Hagen
Sophia Wilansky says she’s lucky she’s right handed. Since nearly losing her left arm from an exploding projectile on Backwater Bridge one year ago, cooking has become a tedious art. She can no longer be involved in circus acrobatics.

Sophia Wilansky self portrait

Daily chores like carrying a purse by its strap, or lifting a grocery bag, aren’t possible. The injuries are permanent; she will carry the scars all her life.

“Makes it harder to do a lot of physical things, can’t even do a downward dog properly in yoga,” Wilansky, 22, said during a video interview. “Everything takes a little more energy, even reading a book, with two hands.”

Was it worth it? Wilansky smiles, hugs her injured arm closer.

“Yes. Definitely,” Wilansky said. “One of the most fulfilling things you can do in life is to act with integrity, for the things you believe in, and make the world the place it’s supposed to be, and once was. It’s fulfilling. It’s worth it from even a personal perspective.”

Since her injury outside of Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have hounded her.

“We have yet to determine why or what their basis of information was,” Wilansky’s attorney, Lauren Regan said. She is the founder and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Oregon. “Since then, they say she blew herself up, accidentally, and that water protectors were responsible for this percussion grenade that hit her in the arm.”

FBI agents also took the shrapnel taken by surgeons from Wilansky’s arm, and Regan will be filing a federal lawsuit called a suit of equity within a week to demand the FBI turn over evidence.

A year has passed since Wilansky’s injury on Backwater Bridge, and Regan admits she’s worried evidence could have been tampered with. But surgeons took pictures of the shrapnel and Wilansky has not been indicted, which is a good sign the government has no case.

“It does seem preposterous with all this time and resources the government has, that they have not had the time to test this fragment,” Regan said.

She’s already filed a notice of claims against the State of North Dakota and law enforcement divisions involved. If the FBI is hiding something, she intends to find out.

“If we determine that the FBI is part of the cover-up, they will be added to lawsuit as well,” Regan said. “She’s endured all these injuries, and surgeries, and prosecution, and yet she is still an incredibly strong woman and still involved in the movement and standing up for what’s right. She is a positive role model for other young people who are struggling and unsure how to contribute.”

One year ago November 21, Wilansky had already been at the Standing Rock camp known as Oceti Sakowin for 17 days. She spent her nights in a tent, in deteriorating winter conditions, and her days with Standing Rock activists, known as water protectors. As a recent college graduate, she had little experience with activism, and a rudimentary awareness of the consequences of colonialism for America’s Indigenous people.

“It was the place to be in 2016,” Wilansky said. “But I already had an interest in fighting pipelines, and I had an intellectual interest in decolonization.”

Before standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline, she first became involved against Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct in her home state of New York, which piqued her curiosity about climate change.

“Honestly, it’s cliché, but I went on a climate march in 2014, and so I think that helped awaken the dormant necessity of relating everything to climate change, because it’s so urgent.”

Life without fossil fuels is nearly impossible, she said, but she’s trying to lessen her carbon footprint by driving in an altered van that runs on used free vegetable oil from fast food chains.

“That’s still not going to solve the problem,” Wilansky said. “Ultimately I want to live in an eco-village, where you don’t have to live with the guilt of ecological destruction, and focus more on eco-revitalization.”

Sophia Wilansky near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota this summer – photograph by Jacob Crawford

Early evening: September 20, 2016
Wilansky stood with hundreds of activists against a brightly lit blockade at Backwater Bridge, north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. Coils of razor wire sparkled, icicles quickly forming from water cannons blasted into the crowds.

Two burned-out DAPL trucks formed a V in front of massive cement blocks. The water cannons came from fire trucks, and behind each door and jutting from military vehicle turrets stood sharpshooters with less lethal rounds.

Strangely, the plastic bin lid she used as a shield worked well against the water cannons, but did little to stop the rubber bullets. Earlier in the evening she was hit twice, once in the groin, and once in the chest. The upper portion of her left arm still bears the scar from where another rubber bullet broke the skin. Her clothes were soaked, and when she got too cold, she warmed up around fires out of the water cannons’ range.

“It wasn’t really bad, it took me a while to figure out why they were doing it, and at first we thought it was some kind of chemical they were spraying us with,” Wilansky said. “So many people were letting the water splash over them in an interesting form of defiance. It was really horrible, a human rights violation, but at the same time it was an incredible display of strength, the joy of being in water.

“I think it was a very spiritual action because it just felt like I said, defiance, to this basically military occupation right next to the reservation and next to Oceti. I don’t think that people had any illusions that this action was going to accomplish anything concrete, in the moment, and there were many actions with that same flavor.

“We were just saying ‘We are here, and we are not afraid.’  Just being there and holding that space, at that point in the struggle it was an act of resistance.”

Activist prepares to be hit with water – photo by Rob Wilson Photography

Since 4am, November 21, 2016
The blast knocked her down, hard. Pain was excruciating. At the time, many media outlets reported she lost her arm, and for a time, Wilanksy thought she had.

“In the early morning hours of November 21, 2016, police launched an exploding munition at Wilansky, which tore off most of her arm and left her gravely injured,” a press release from the Civil Liberties Defense Center stated.

The explosion ripped out the radius bone, muscles, nerves, and arteries, leaving her hand hanging by bits of skin. Friends placed her in a car and drove 30 minutes to an ambulance near Prairie Knights Casino. From there she was medevaced to a Minneapolis hospital, where doctors averted amputation.

Moments after she was struck, while waiting for the driver, Wilansky was afraid to look at her arm, and thought only about the medications she would soon receive to ease the pain. She never lost consciousness, and used her good hand to text a friend.

Sophia Wilansky after being injured early November 21, 2016

While at the Minneapolis hospital with her family gathered, “They were besieged by FBI agents who demanded Sohpia’s clothing, medical records, cell phones, and even threatened her doctors.” the Civil Liberties Defense Center press release stated. “Rather than attempt to ascertain which of the many armored police caused Wilansky’s serious injuries, the FBI launched a federal investigation against Wilansky – even issuing a federal grand jury subpoena to the Native American Water Protector who rushed her to medical care.”

Four surgeries later, her radial bone is slowly healing after a large bone graft. The metal plate inside her arm has not shifted, but she has no feeling in the palm side of her hand. Some feeling has returned from her forearm to her wrist, and she is able to wiggle her fingers now. A fifth surgery is scheduled, which will be a tendon transfer so that her thumb may move to touch her pinky finger. Pain, however, is still ever present.

On Monday, the Fargo Forum’s Inforum ran a short editorial by one of their own, Rob Port, who wrote about the “unfortunate profile of NoDAPL activist” in the New York Post.

“It’s all part of an ongoing effort by left wing propagandists to rewrite the history of the NoDAPL protests, particularly as we approach the one-year anniversary this week of their most violent episodes.”

That night, long before a police report could be filed, long before Wilansky had arrived in Minneapolis, police and TigerSwan, the private security company for Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, initiated a “False and defamatory media campaign attempting to blame Sophia Wilansky for blowing herself up… including publishing fake photos and other information in the Internet,” the Civil Liberties Defense Center press release said, corroborated by emails obtained by The Intercept:

Ninety minutes after the standoff at Backwater Bridge began, Bismarck Police Officer Lynn Wanner told everyone to watch live feeds. A Code Red was issued at approximately 6:17pm. Nearly 15 minutes later, activists were attempting to remove the two burned-out DAPL trucks. Less lethal munitions were brought in at 7:16 p.m., and the fire truck arrived nearly 15 minutes later. By 7:45 p.m., officers were asking to retreat, and an FBI informant inside the camps reportedly found propane tanks set to explode.

By 9:58 p.m., the conversation between law enforcement officials and TigerSwan turned to preparation for a media backlash. Hundreds of reports of tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, and water cannons used on people came across in an email around 9:43 p.m.

In total, more than 300 activists were injured at Backwater Bridge before dawn on September 21, including a woman shot in the face with a rubber bullet, many suffering from internal bleeding, hypothermia, lost consciousness, severe head lacerations, and multiple fractures.

Law enforcement relied heavily on social media feeds in early attempts to refute Wilansky’s story. TigerSwan echoed law enforcement’s worries of a media backlash by saying live videos would be turned into anti-DAPL propaganda. The North Dakota National Guard also weighed in, asking how to disseminate the government narrative to the public, and the public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services suggested Port’s SayAnythingBlog.

Citing disinformation, both Regan and Wilansky’s family have said the government’s narrative does not contain “a shred of truth.”

“They’re using what happened to me as an excuse to ruin the whole movement,” Wilansky said.

Her only regret is that her time at Standing Rock was cut short.

“I certainly fulfilled some kind of purpose there, because what happened to me helped spur thousands of more people arriving. Ultimately, that didn’t stop the pipeline from being built though.”

Wilansky encourages young people, especially, to become involved in causes they believe in.

“Being involved in this particular movement and land defense is a really good option for people finishing college and high school and not ready to go get a job, and taking the typical path. It’s still possible for anyone to be a part of these camps, there’s so many camps, so many struggles all over the world.”

Self portrait Sophia Wilansky

If Wilansky’s injuries have taught her anything, it’s that she will work harder for the causes she believes in.

“The police commit daily acts of violence against black, brown, and Indigenous people, murdering Native people at a higher rate than any other group,” Wilansky said. “Extractive industry does the same thing, only more slowly and insidiously. The fact that state actors are willing to assault and maim anyone who stands for the water within an Indigenous-led movement only means that each of us must strengthen our resolve to contribute in our own way to the struggle to defend life and end the colonizing institutions that threaten it.

Despite her injuries, Wilansky isn’t angry. “A lot of people are angry for me, I think, at the police and all the other entities that are giving me a hard time. There’s lots of good reasons to be angry, but I’m not angry, because I already knew that’s how this society works.

“No attack on my body or my character will silence me or prevent me from returning to the frontline as soon as I am physically able.”

 

Keystone XL Pipeline passed, but not without dissent

Another controversial beginning, another “black snake”

By C.S. Hagen
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Nebraska regulators passed the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline project Monday morning.

After leaking more than 210,000 barrels of crude oil from Keystone I into the South Dakota prairies, TransCanada, the company behind the 1,200-mile pipeline, was approved for building a second pipeline, the Keystone XL, in Nebraska. Keystone XL has been a controversial project, facing fierce opposition by environmental groups, landowners, and Native American Tribes.

The TransCanada-managed pipeline was also stopped by valve turners in October 2016, in what became known as the most expansive, coordinated, takeover of fossil fuel infrastructure ever attempted in the U.S.

President Barack Obama once vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline, and President Donald Trump breathed new life into the project earlier this year, when he signed executive orders approving the project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission approved the project with two dissenting votes. According to state law, regulators are not allowed to consider the risks of pipeline accidents during permission proceedings. The decision can be challenged in court.

Keystone Pipeline spill in Amherst, SD aerial photograph – provided by TransCanada

Such pipelines are called “black snakes” by Indigenous tribes in the United States, as they believe their prophecies foretell such pipelines will ruin the environment.

“The Commission is very cognizant of the fact that opening a trench that entirely bisects the State of Nebraska from north to south to insert a 36-inch pipe will have impacts on the natural resources of the state, including soil, water, and wildlife,” the Commission reported. “It is impossible to complete such a project without impacts. There is no utopian option where we reap the benefits of an infrastructure project without some effects.”

The project will benefit union members and Nebraska residents, and will create about $30 million in wages and $20 million in fringe benefits, according to testimonies within the report. Land in which the pipe will be laid is primarily agricultural in use, the report stated.

Commissioner Rod Johnson, who voted for the project, said TransCanada, the managerial company for Keystone I and Keystone XL, made promises to the state that he will make sure the company keeps.

“There should be no doubt that this Commission and the citizens of this State expect TransCanada to keep those promises, and we will be watching to make sure that they do so,” Johnson said. “I fully understand that Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act [MOPSA] forbids this Commission from considering issues related to pipeline safety. Nonetheless, it is obvious that safety issues are of prime concern to the public regarding this pipeline. Safety was the number one issue raised at the Commission’s four public meetings and in the many thousands of written comments we have received during this process.

“TransCanada and project advocates have often said that the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest in history. Nebraskans are counting on that promise, too.”

Not all the regulators agreed the Keystone XL project should have gone forward. Two commissioners, Mary Ridder and Crystal Rhoades, dissented, saying the burden of proof of public good was not met. Three men on the commission board, not including the executive director, Michael G. Hybl, voted for the project.

“The Commission failed to protect the due process rights of groups affected by this proceeding,” Rhoades said. She listed a number of violations, including that the route chosen violates due process landowner rights, that the applicant did not provide proof of publication in local newspapers along the pipeline’s route, and that she disagreed with decisions made during the proceeding.

“All human-made infrastructure degrades and fails over time,” Rhoades said. “No infrastructure ever designed has lasted an eternity and there is no reason to believe this pipeline will be an exception. Therefore, it is impossible to prepare beforehand for environmental impacts; and it will expose first responders, with limited resources, to unknown chemical compounds they may not have the necessary equipment to contain.”

Furthermore, no evidence was presented to substantiate that the applicant would minimize or mitigate potential impacts on natural resources, Rhoades said, and the company also failed to speak with local Native American tribes.

“The applicant only reported DOS [U.S. Department of State] had worked with the Southern Ponca Tribe, who reside in Oklahoma. This is the equivalent of asking a distant relative for permission to do major construction in your backyard. This is inadequate as it is unreasonable.”

Keystone XL employees also did not offer any evidence that the “man camps” along the pipeline’s route would not create a strain on local resources in terms of fire, police, sanitation, demands for power, and public safety, a recurring problem that North Dakota’s Bakken oil region also faced and still faces today.

News of pipeline project’s passing was good for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven.

“After nearly a decade of delay, the Keystone XL Pipeline is now moving again,” Hoeven said. “This pipeline project is important energy infrastructure for our nation that will create jobs and economic growth and make our nation more secure by reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Building newer and better infrastructure is safer and will provide our country with the infrastructure we need now and in the future.”

Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the fight against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline is far from finished, and launched a website NoKXLpromise.org to help mobilize allies.   

“Our commitment has always been to protect the sacred,” Goldtooth said. “From the source at the Tar Sands to the ports on the coasts, we stand by this commitment and continue to fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

“We are pushing Mother Earth to the limit everyday and the KXL is just another oil and gas project that is locking us into a future we can’t afford,” Eriel Deranger, the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, said.

“To hear that Nebraska is moving forward with this black snake, while a massive spill is being cleaned at this very moment, is heartbreaking,” Joye Braun, a registered member of the Cheyenne River Sioux, and with Indigenous Environmental Network, said. “We have not yet received information on the toxic chemicals that were released in this most recent spill, nor do we know where the contaminated soil is going to go. Spills like this have huge social impacts and our communities cannot afford this to happen. When it comes to KXL, it is a matter of when, not if the pipeline leaks.”

Lewis Grassrope, headsman of the Wiconi Un Tipi, said he has set up camp in the Lower Brule Sioux Nation in South Dakota in response to TransCanada’s “attempt to affect our living and way of life.

“Our camp is close to the proposed transmission lines for the KXL pumping stations,” Grassrope said. “We are here to choose how we live. We are here to continue to restore balance and save Mother Earth from any atrocious acts against her.”

 

“It’s not if pipelines leak, but when they will leak”

Keystone Pipeline leak contained, but largest to date in South Dakota

By C.S. Hagen
AMHERST, SOUTH DAKOTA – Four days before TransCanada anticipated obtaining permits for the Keystone XL project, the company’s older pipeline leaked, spilling more than 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil into the South Dakota plains.

The spill occurred near the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Reservation.

“It’s not if pipelines leak, but when they will leak, and we’re experiencing a leak, a pretty substantial amount,” Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Flute said in a public video. “We want to know what was the cause, why it happened, and how much was spilled, and what impact that will have on our environment.”

The leak occurred at 5:30 a.m. Thursday near Amherst, South Dakota, and the Keystone Pipeline was shut down within 30 minutes, Brian Walsh, team leader for the South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources, said. Cleanup crews are at work, and Walsh’s agency is overseeing the cleanup process.

Keystone Pipeline spill in Amherst, SD aerial photograph – provided by TransCanada

“The spill has not reached any surface water, and it is contained,” Walsh said. “It’s not flowing off site. They have mobilized equipment necessary to begin the cleanup activities to the site and we anticipate they will work 24 hours a day to clean up the area.”

The Keystone Pipeline is operated by TransCanada, which manages a 56,900-mile network of pipelines extending from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, according to a press release made available by TransCanada. On the TransCanada Twitter page, company officials posted that they are currently assessing the situation near Amherst.

“Frequent updates are being provided to the affected landowners, community, regulators, and other state and federal agencies to ensure they are aware of our progress,” the press release stated. No mention was made of why the oil leaked.

“In terms of cost of cleanup that falls on TransCanada,” Walsh said. “In terms of penalties, we just don’t know at this time.”

On the Twitter page entitled Keystone Pipeline Sabotage, oil and pipeline proponents began crying foul hours after the spill.

“Wouldn’t put it past the crazy Dems to sabotage the pipeline,” someone named ARI Russian BOT said.

“Just as the approval was pending,” a commentator named Doug said. “Want to bet it was sabotage?”

Cleanup is no small feat, and could take months, perhaps years. All contaminated soil must be removed. If diluted bitumen, which has the consistency of thick tar, reaches water sources such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or aquifers, the cleanup would become nearly impossible, as bitumen, opposed to crude oil, sinks in water.

The Keystone XL Pipeline was first proposed in 2008, but the project received widespread opposition in Canada and the United States, and it ended with President Barrack Obama’s 2015 decision to reject the pipeline’s permits. President Donald Trump breathed new life into the Keystone XL Pipeline after signing a flurry of executive orders four days after ascending to the presidency.

TransCanada was in negotiations with regulators to run the Keystone XL Pipeline, with a capacity of 830,000-barrels-per-day, through Nebraska when the spill occurred.

The spill has many speculating if the company’s expansion permits will be approved, or not. Legally, pipeline safety is not a factor in issuing permits, according to Nebraska law. The state’s law says regulators are not allowed to consider the risks of pipeline accidents when considering permissions for pipeline construction, as the issue is federal, not state.

“In determining whether the pipeline carrier has met its burden, the commission shall not evaluate safety considerations, including the risk or impact of spills or leaks from the major oil pipeline,” Nebraska’s Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act stated.

Pro-pipeline politicians and businessmen continuously state pipelines are the safest method to transport crude oil, but pipeline opponents contest, saying all pipelines will one day leak.

Spills are unavoidable, according to an August 2017 report compiled by the Dakota Resource Council, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

The Dakota Resource Council’s report stated that the oil boom in the Bakken is endangering people’s health, and that the state lacks meaningful standards for detecting and repairing leaks.

“Each day, oil and gas activities across the state spring leaks that spew toxic pollution into the air, like an invisible spill,” the report stated. “The smog that pollution causes to form is endangering the health of communities across North Dakota.”

From 2010 to the present, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration or PHMSA reported a total of 373 spills between three major pipeline companies. After Thursday’s incident, and two leaks from the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017, that number is 376.  

  •      Not including Thursday’s spill, TransCanada and subsidiaries had 13 spills totaling 829 barrels or 34,818 gallons of crude oil
  •      Kinder Morgan and subsidiaries and joint ventures had 213 spills totaling 21,598 barrels or 907,116 gallons of hazardous liquids
  •      Enbridge and its subsidiaries and joint ventures had 147 spills totaling 40,794 barrels or 1,713,348 gallons of hazardous liquids.
  •      The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline sprung two leaks in March 2017, spilling 84 gallons in Watford City and 20 gallons in Mercer County

“Additionally three other tar sands pipelines, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, Enbridge’s Line 3 expansion, and TransCanada’s Energy East, are in various stages of development,” a 2017 Greenpeace report stated. “Construction of one or more of these pipelines could lead to the expansion of the tar sands, with serious consequences for communities and the climate.”

Although environmental activists have been fighting big oil and pipelines for years, the controversy took front pages across the world in 2016 during construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Resistance camps grew to become one of the state’s largest communities at one time exceeding 10,000 people. Approximately 854 people were arrested during the months-long opposition outside of Standing Rock, and so far 310 of those arrested have had their cases dismissed of were acquitted, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective, a law firm defending activists facing charges in North Dakota.

More than 120 First Nations and Indigenous tribes on both sides of the northern border have signed a treaty stating their opposition to the tar sands pipelines, trains, and tankers through their territories and lands.

Nearby, on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Reservation, they’re wanting answers, but said that even though the spill occurred outside of their jurisdiction, TransCanada is being transparent with them.

“There is not an accurate amount of spillage that they can quantify,” Chairman Dave Flute said. “If there is any possible issue that we could have with our water, they will let us know,” Flute said. “Everybody knows there is a spill, we just don’t know how many gallons.”

Already, people from out of state are arriving at the cordoned spill area, Flute said.

“As [former Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman] Dave Archambault had preached, and I supported Archambault, be peaceful,” Flute said. “If you do come up here I do ask that you be mindful, and be respectful. Freedom of speech, you can say what you want to say, but be respectful.”

Flute said pipeline officials reacted quickly, and have shown concern for residents.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission was also contacted for comment on the safety of current pipelines operating in North Dakota, but no response was given by press time.

 

“Radicalized capitalists are the terrorists”

More than 761 arrested, 310 cases dismissed, so far two activists imprisoned in connection to DAPL controversy

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN – Defense lawyers are whittling down the cases involved with the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, but the sudden imprisonment of two last month came as a shock, and has activists wondering if the state is either being vindictive, or changing strategies.

“I was singled out among many who were unjustly arrested,” Alex Simon said.

Simon, 27, is a teacher from New Mexico and served 13 days of an 18-day sentence for locking arms with activists – known as water protectors – against a police line on October 22, 2016. That same day, 140 others were arrested with him, but only one other received a jail sentence: 65-year-old Mary Redway, a retired environmental planner from Rhode Island.

Mary Redway spent four days in jail for standing her ground while at Standing Rock – photograph by Liminal Films

I was shocked that he ordered us to jail immediately,” Redway said after she served four days inside the women’s booking cellblock of the Burleigh Morton Detention Center. “We were shackled and led out of the courtroom as though it were a scene from a really bad movie. It was [Judge Thomas A.] Merrick’s way of saying ‘F*ck you.’”

“It seems that Judge Thomas A. Merrick wanted to make an example of me, berating me because, in his opinion, I didn’t ‘have a dog in the fight,’” Simon said. “He is mistaken, and I am proud to help shoulder the burden in the fight for Indigenous Rights. If this is the price I must pay for Indigenous Peoples to pursue a path towards sovereignty, I am honored to do it.”

“I’m out,” post from Alex Simon on Facebook

Both Redway and Simon say they were treated decently while inside, surviving on a high-carbohydrate diet. Redway was treated with “kid’s gloves,” while Simon even made a few friends during his incarceration.Redway said the booking guard refused to believe she was convicted and imprisoned on a disorderly conduct charge.

“I had to show him the court papers before he would change what he had typed in,” Redway said. “Then he muttered something to the effect that nobody gets jailed for disorderly conduct.”

So far, 310 cases for activists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy have been dismissed or acquitted, 107 activists made plea deals, 24 cases have had pre-trial diversions, and one case has made an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, according to Sarah K. Hogarth, communications director with the Water Protector Legal Collective. Another 109 cases are inactive, and 259 cases remain to be tried, calendared until July 2018.

A total of 761 people were arrested during the months-long opposition to the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The Water Protector Legal Collective reports 854 people were arrested.

Alex Simon spent 13 days in jail for locking arms with activists against the Dakota Access Pipeline – photograph by Liminal Films

Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and registered member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who ran against Congressman Kevin Cramer R-ND, last year, is one of those arrested and he’s still awaiting trial. He faces felony charges of inciting a riot, and plans to use the necessity defense, a tactic denied to valve turners in Pembina County by Judge Laurie A. Fontaine in early October.

Iron Eyes plans to argue that his crime, while he does not dispute his involvement, was justified because he committed them to prevent a greater harm. His case had a hearing on Friday to argue that his attorneys needed more time to gather evidence.

Iron Eyes also plans to challenge the “civil rights conspiracy” narrative that portrayed activists as terrorists, which resulted in harsh treatment.

“Radicalized capitalists are the terrorists,” Iron Eyes said in a Facebook post on Friday. “The unnatural outlier, the disease of all pursuits of life, liberty, happiness and spirit. Here they stand before God, criminalizing water protectors, privatizing water, preying on the impoverished, forcing a form of indentured servitude for capital exchange, committing genocide, and forcing people to kill each other for their own profits. Not in defense of land, water, people or even ‘country.’ We, sentient beings, are committing unforgivable murder on the innocent for their endless war machine, their death march.”

Redway is now out of jail, and finishing up her community service with the Water Protector Legal Collective in Mandan. Despite the state’s poor conviction record, she is worried that state prosecutors, and state leaders, are changing tactics. Judge Merrick was one of the petitioners who attempted to change the Supreme Court law to stop out-of-state attorneys from defending primarily out-of-state defendants.

The petition failed after the North Dakota Supreme Court received 536 comments against changing the law.

On October 23, Cramer along with 80 colleagues petitioned US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to help prosecute “to the fullest extent of the law any criminal who try to destroy energy infrastructure.

“This is about right and wrong,” Cramer wrote. “As we’ve seen from the DAPL riots, environment terrorism – when left unchecked – sets a dangerous precedent that puts lives at risk and has resulted in major damage to private and public property.”

Judge Merrick – photograph taken by Liminal Films


“We’ve seen the state change it’s strategy vis-a-vis prosecution tactics,” Redway said. “They really went to town on my trial with enhanced photos taken from helicopter footage to establish who was where, and when. There was nothing like this in any earlier trials, and they brought in new charges and a judge from the surrogate circuit who is vindictive and willing to twist the law. All new plays.

“The state has found its winning combination and will probably try to replicate it in future trials. Chilling. They may even recharge those who had their original two charges dropped, but haven’t yet gotten the new charges.”

Despite serving time behind bars, both Redway and Simon do not regret their actions.

The movement for Indigenous Rights is so powerful because it is focused on healing historical and environmental trauma and it is being led by people whose ancestors were the original stewards of this land,” Simon said. “As a fellow human being a person who comes from Jewish descent, I am compelled to help alleviate suffering wherever it exists.”

“Would I do it again?” Redway said. “To be clear: I had no intention of getting arrested that day. But I also believe, the judge’s verdict notwithstanding, that I did not break the law in any way. I do not regret my actions, despite having been convicted and sent to jail. I stand by my right to peaceably protest.”

First anti-DAPL activists sentenced to jail

Biologist and schoolteacher found guilty; others had charges dismissed

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN – Hundreds of trials for activists who stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline have seen the judge’s gavel, but only two, so far, received jail time.

Mary Redway, 64, a retired environmental biologist from Rhode Island, and Alexander Simon, 27, a teacher living in New Mexico, both were found guilty and sentenced Thursday to jail by Southeast District Court Judge Thomas Merrick. Both activists, known as water protectors, were arrested on October 22, 2016 along with 140 others, most of whom had their charges dismissed.

Despite the North Dakota State’s Attorney’s lack of a recommendation for jail time, Merrick sentenced Simon to 18 days in jail and Redway to a total of six days, with two already served.

“There is no logic or consistency to the different outcomes people received on these same charges,” a Water Protector Legal Collective press release stated. “Judge Merrick’s decision to sentence them to jail demonstrates disparate treatment.”

Activists calling for prayer form human chain to prevent others from marching on law enforcement – photo by C.S. Hagen

The Water Protector Legal Collective is an indigenous-led, on-the-ground legal team defending activists arrested during the months-long Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. It is currently fighting up to 427 criminal cases in North Dakota, according to the legal team’s website.

Merrick reportedly signed the petition trying to change the law temporarily allowing out-of-state attorneys to represent activists facing charges during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, the Water Protector Legal Collective reported.

“That effort failed,” the Water Protector Legal Collective press release stated.

The North Dakota Supreme Court Clerk’s office reported 536 comments on the judges’ petition to change the current law. The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld their January ruling granting permission for out-of-state lawyers to continue defending those arrested during the controversy. “We conclude termination of our prior order would be premature,” Supreme Court judges said.

During the public comment period, many asked the state a question: why is it permissible to accept out-of-state checks from Dakota Access, LLC, but not allow out-of-state lawyers to defend people not from North Dakota?

Dakota Access, LLC recently gifted $15 million to the state via the Bank of North Dakota, and sent Energy Transfer Partners teams to first responders in North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, with additional checks, totalling $1 million.

The financial gifts have been called bribes by opponents of the pipeline, and the act of a “good neighbor” by those supporting the pipeline.

The Water Protector Legal Collective says the denial of the motion to allow out-of-state lawyers is part of the reason two activists received jail time days after the Supreme Court made its ruling.

“We see this decision as his attempt to send a message that people will face harsh sentences regardless of innocence or guilt as a means to put pressure on others with pending charges to take pleas or forgo trial. The prosecutorial discretion and conviction of some and not others has been arbitrary and targets what police and state’s attorneys call agitators.”

New Mexico teacher Simon was charged and found guilty of misdemeanor charges of physical obstruction of government function and disorderly conduct, and was acquitted of disobedience of safety orders during a riot, according to court records. Rhode Island biologist Redway was found guilty of disorderly conduct, acquitted for disobedience of safety orders during a riot, and found not guilty of physical obstruction of a government function, according to court records.

Merrick is the judge that dismissed charges against The Guardian photojournalist Sara Lafleur-Vetter earlier in October. He was scheduled to retire at the end of 2016, according to news reports.

Hundreds of cases still remain to be tried. Officially, 761 people were arrested during the months-long opposition to the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, and in July, 114 cases were dismissed by the state. Eleven people received guilty verdicts; 50 pleaded guilty – primarily on lesser charges — and three have been acquitted. A total of 854 people were arrested, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective.

[ Editor’s note: This is a continuing story and will be updated with new information]

A Valve Turner’s Trial: Mostly Guilty

In rural North Dakota, free speech is on the line

By C.S. Hagen
CAVALIER
– Friends call John Eric Foster the valve turner a hero, the state is trying him as a criminal, and the Keystone Pipeline named him a terrorist for stopping their oil pipeline flow for eight hours in 2016.

Michael Foster and Samuel Jessup halfway through the trial – photo by C.S. Hagen

After a week of trial and a five-hour deliberation, a jury found Foster guilty on all counts, except the most serious charge, reckless endangerment, leaving felony criminal mischief, felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.  

Foster’s co-defendant, Sam Jessup, who filmed the action, was convicted of felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and misdemeanor conspiracy trespass, both sentences which could carry a maximum of 11 years imprisonment.

“I’m feeling so relieved and peaceful right now, because I’ve been wondering for a year how this would all play out, and now I don’t have to wonder,” Foster said. “I’m grateful to the jury for wrestling with this for several hours. There were some tearful faces in there, whether they were unsure, or whether they were simply feeling the weight of sending someone to prison, I think they were taking it as seriously as they could. I would not want to be on that jury.”

Foster’s trial brought activist groups, civil rights advocates, climate change analysts, reporters from Washington D.C. and New York, to the picturesque town of Cavalier, population barely 1,300, the seat of Pembina County.

Lady Justice stands tall above the neoclassical-styled courthouse, but her scales dipped heavily with Foster’s case. On the trial’s third and fourth days, Judge Laurie A. Fontaine denied Foster’s necessity defense, denied the testimonies of four expert witnesses on Climate Change, and denied motions for acquittal by the defense.

“While the proffered experts could testify to the data supporting the existence and severity of climate change, there is no argument that they have the knowledge or expertise to testify on how knowledge of climate change affects an individual defendant’s mental state, intent, or level of culpability,” court documents said.

Foster, 52, stands accused of felonies with a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison, years more than any other activist arrested. His action – considered the biggest coordinated move on U.S. energy infrastructure undertaken by environmental protesters – has been covered by national media, but little has been reported by mainstream media in North Dakota.

Foster helped halt 15 percent of US oil consumption for the day. Jessup, who filmed Foster on October 11, 2016, is being tried as a conspirator.

Climate guru Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA researcher, was one of the expert witnesses planning to testify. “I’m the one who said tar sands are ‘game over’ for climate, and here [is Michael Foster] facing trial for trying to do something about it.”

Michael Foster, Samuel Jessup, expert witnesses on Climate Change, Dr. James Hansen to Foster’s right, and supporters – photo by C.S. Hagen

The state argued in court that Foster willfully shut down the Keystone XL pipeline with the intent to rob oil transporter TransCanada Corporation of nearly $1.2 million. The prosecution’s team, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers and Pembina County State’s Attorney Rebecca Flanders, failed to properly admit evidence, and failed to notify the defense properly about their clean-cut star witness, Trevor Pollack, a manager for TransCanada Pipeline.

The defense argued that Foster is guilty of nothing more than trespass; that he gave proper warning to pipeline officials, who then called law enforcement about a terroristic threat, before shutting the pipeline down. The defense scored one point with the judge when they objected to the prosecution’s lack of clearly identifying Pollack’s credentials.

After a 10 minute recess during Thursday proceedings, Judge Fontaine came back into the courtroom, stroked her chin, flipped through law books, mumbled back and forth about arguments, then ruled in favor of the defense.

“I’m not going to allow to allow any more testimony about risks,” Judge Fontaine said. “It’s not the defense’s job to keep asking for information.” The prosecution wanted the case to be about potential risks to property and people; the defense wanted to include climate change and the pipeline’s damage to the environment.  

The defense may appeal the judge’s repeated denials.

“There are a lot of judges who make that call,” said Jessup’s attorney, William Kirschner, of Kirschner Law Office in Fargo. “We are allowed to appeal. I was hopeful, but who knows, we’re not done yet.”

“It has become a case about free speech and the right of free expression in an economy dominated by the oil industry,” said Emily Lardner of Washington DC, Jessup’s mother.

Two Keystone lawyers dressed in black suits sat silently at the back of the courtroom.

“The company is trying to figure out how to prosecute without providing evidence for these crimes,” Jessup said. Despite being on trial himself, the courtroom drama is the first he’s seen up close. “They’re testing us out to see what they can get away with. Climate change poses a threat to our nation and our future.”

Ken Ward, 59, of Oregon, is another valve turner who was recently found guilty, but received no jail time in Washington State. He attended the trial after serving 30 days community service while working for Habitat for Humanity. He fully anticipated jail time, as does Foster. They both knew the risks before their group, a total of five valve turners with Climate Direct Action, stopped tar sands oil from flowing in Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and Montana.

Nine people were originally arrested in the coordinated action to safely shut down valves on five pipelines carrying tar sands oil from Canada into the United States. The additional three valve turners include Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle, Washington, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, who are still awaiting their court dates.

All were involved in Climate Direct Action, and all believed their actions were morally and legally justified in order to avoid catastrophic harm to humanity.  

John Foster, one of the defendants, is also a kayaktivist with the Mosquito Fleet Rapid Response Team, and involved with Al Gore’s initiative, the Climate Reality Project.

Michael Eric Foster – “Who Will Stop Us” – wet plate by Shane Balkowitsch

Foster was disappointed with the court’s ruling to disallow his necessity defense and the testimonies of expert witnesses. A sticking point with the prosecution was that he was untrained and put lives and property in danger, but the state failed to prove that, Foster said. Prior to him shutting down the pipeline in 2016, the pipeline had already been shut down five times.

“People doing this without error, without accident, there’s some basic procedures that were followed,” Foster said.

Until late Thursday, Foster planned to take the stand. In the end, he was not allowed to.

“I thought I am betraying myself, I will regret this for the rest of my life,” Foster said. “The truth is if I’d taken the stand there would have been so many objections and fights, the jury would have had to leave the room. Without even getting on the stand, it’s pretty obvious we knew what we were doing out there. North Dakota really wants to win something; they prosecuted very vigorously. The judge was very patient and kind. Everybody put a lot of time into doing this right.”

Climate change is the reason he turned the valve, Foster said. He is committed to his cause and rarely drives a car, preferring to use a bicycle. His decisions have cost him much, personally, and may cost him much more.

A necessity defense is used to shield people who must break the law in order to prevent greater harm. So far, three of the four trials involving valve turners across the country have denied defendants the necessity defense option. One case in Minnesota remains to be determined.

Tensions were high between the prosecution and defense. The courtroom felt like a law room should, sturdy, dignified, with high ceilings, intricate millwork, fold-up school-style wooden chairs. A sturdy wooden bannister separates the onlookers from the legal teams.

Little evidence but memories remain of the 2005 burning and shooting rampage that occurred in 2005 by an angry local farmer, James Thorlakson. Once-blackened halls are clean. The 1912 dome, the only building designed by Buechner & Orth in North Dakota, stands somber and brilliant.

The jury, sitting like beached whales, chairs pivoted toward the judge, were frequently dismissed to allow for arguments on the prosecution’s failings during Thursday’s proceedings.

Evidence of the crime: Foster’s white hardhat, his fluorescent work jacket, the bolt cutters, among other items used on the day the pipeline was shut down, sat on a desk.

“Yes, there was a risk,” Foster’s attorney, Michael Hoffman, said. “There’s a risk if I walk across the street to go to my car. Pipelines have inherent risks. The state has not proven their case.”

Nearby farmers and neighbors were not warned of a terroristic threat, Hoffman said, and the only conclusion is that law enforcement and the reporting pipeline company were not overly concerned.

“It all goes back to the fact that you can’t have it both ways,” Hoffman said. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too, it is overcharging of these crimes against Michael Foster. His intent was to stop the flow of the oil as a change in the narrative of climate change, and this was a symbolic event, if anything. You do not have any evidence that any persons or property were in any danger, or that he was in a culpable mental state.”

Even the state admitted, earlier in the trial, that Foster was trying to raise public awareness and that his actions would have a temporary effect, Hoffman said.

After turning the valve, Foster left chrysanthemums behind, and immediately confessed to Chief Deputy Sheriff Fred Marquaret. After hearing about a terroristic threat by pipeline field manager Lonnie Johnson, he went home to grab his binoculars, taking more than 30 minutes to arrive at the scene.

“I didn’t know what was happening until I got there,” Marquaret said. “Was I going to encounter some kind of fire or explosion? I didn’t know.”

After arriving, he first scoped out the area, then saw two people heading toward him. He asked Foster what was going on.

“He stated he had cut the padlock, and had turned the valve,” Marquaret said. He said Foster was polite, and didn’t resist arrest. Citing probable cause, deputies also arrested Jessup and a documentary filmmaker named Deia Schlosberg. Charges on Schlosberg were later dropped.

“Was 9/11 a peaceful protest? Was the Oklahoma City bombing a peaceful protest?” Kirschner said. “Is there a difference between taking action?”

“Yes,” Marquaret said.

“Is it really fair to say the two are not comparable?” Kirschner said.

“Pipeline manager Lonnie Johnson just asked us to check it out,” Marquaret said.

“How did you know it wasn’t a hoax?”

“I didn’t.”

Kirschner argued for his client, Jessup, that the two did not conspire; Jessup was there to film, and he never entered the manual shut-off valve control area, known as Walhalla 8-2, as it is 8.2 miles from the Canadian border.

Lady Justice atop the Pembina County Courthouse – photo by C.S. Hagen

“My client was there when a crime was being committed,” Kirschner said. “My client was there to record and live stream. Just being there doesn’t make him a conspirator to criminal trespass. There is no evidence that he said or planned anything beforehand.”

“He bragged ahead of time, he boasted after the fact,” prosecutor Byers said of Foster. “He shut down the Keystone Pipeline, he knew he would cause losses of more than $10,000. Yes, nobody was injured, but an untrained operator not knowing the equipment he’s using – it didn’t go bad, but it certainly could have. There is enough evidence to have a jury possibly convict.”

Did Foster put the pipeline and people’s lives at risk when he decided to shut down the Keystone Pipeline?

“It’s a big system, so it’s hard to stay on top of everything,” Pollack, the manager for TransCanada, said. He was on duty the day Foster shut the pipeline down, and company employees immediately put the pipeline into a “safe mode” when they received the warning call. Later, when pipeline pressures fluctuated, they commenced an emergency shutdown, which took approximately 28 minutes.

“It was not a chosen controlled shutdown, but it was controlled,” Judge Fontaine said.

The prosecution rested their case on Thursday, and defense gave short arguments on Friday morning, showing in full a video the prosecution had shown only 18 seconds of, and then turned the case over to the jury. Showing the video to the jury was considered a victory for Foster, who was unable to speak out on climate issues during the trial. Friday’s proceedings were short but tense. Defendants Foster and Jessup, friends, family, and supporters, waited in the courtyard’s lawn for hours while the jury deliberated.

The jury gave its verdict around 7:30 p.m.

The expert witnesses barred from testifying included: Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Tom Hastings, an author and co-coordinator in conflict resolution at Portland State University, and Reverend Rebecca Voelkel, director of the Center for Sustainable Justice.

Foster, a former mental health counselor, has been living in North Dakota for the past month. He traveled partly by rail and by bicycle from Washington to the state to prepare for the trial.

“I can’t get over some of the things I’ve seen and learned, and how different the world looks from this point of view,” Foster said. “I’m kind of disgusted with myself and my coastal elitism. I can just imagine how I look and sound, some of my attitudes — and there’s a part of me that thinks I may relocate to a place like North Dakota to do some climate work.

“This is where it is at, this is where people are real and understand the truth, and I think we can learn a lot from getting out of our blue states and our bubbles, and just having decent conversations with people who care about the land and care about their kids.”

Sentences will be handed down next week.

State settles misconduct allegations with Dakota Access Pipeline developers

Big Oil saves face, state to get new trees by end of 2018

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– The Dakota Access Pipeline developer agreed to plant trees to reach a settlement over two misconduct allegations while constructing the pipeline on Wednesday.


A total of 20,000 trees are to be planted by December 31, 2018 along the pipeline route, a total cost that will exceed the $15,000 settlement the North Dakota Public Service Commission offered in August.

Although pipeline developer Dakota Access LLC, faced 83 counts of improperly removing trees and foliage, multiple claims of topsoil removal, failure for having a proper spill prevention plan, and rerouting the pipeline without properly notifying the Commission after finding a cultural site, no fines were levied.

The issues involved in the misconduct allegations were disputed by both parties involved, resulting in an apparent “saving face” incentive for Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners.

“The parties to this agreement have determined that settlement and compromise of the dispute is in the interests of their respective stakeholders and agree to resolve the Order to Show Cause proceeding and the investigation proceeding without any fault or admissions being made by either party to the allegations made,” the agreement stated.

The pipeline developer has until the end of 2018 to plant the 20,000 two-year-old saplings, which can be willow, juniper, aspen, pine, ash, cedar, oak, spruce, boxelder, or maple trees, according to the agreement.

The company also agreed to to repair disturbed topsoil, distribute a current spill prevention manual to current registered pipeline companies throughout the state, and conduct training programs on unanticipated discoveries and the Commission’s route change process at the 2018 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.

Dakota Access, LLC also agreed to bring a “speaker of national or international renown” to speak during the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office, all expenses paid by the pipeline developer.  
All other complaints against the pipeline developer were dismissed with prejudice, according to the agreement.

In late August, Energy Transfer Partners, struck back at NoDAPL organizations, calling those involved “racketeers,” “parasites,” “rogue eco-terrorists,” and “criminals,” and demanding a jury trial while alleging the multiple defendants processed millions of dollars and fraudulently induced donations to support the NoDAPL cause.

The lawsuit was filed approximately three months after the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board filed a civil lawsuit against TigerSwan, LLC, the security “fusion leader” for Energy Transfer Partners. The lawsuit stated that the security company and its founder, among other oil companies, worked illegally in North Dakota.

“One Person Can Change The World”

An in depth look into why valve turners, called eco terrorists by some, feel forced to commit crimes to halt global warming

By C.S. Hagen
CAVALIER
– He kept the plans secret for months. Not even family knew he planned to shut down North Dakota’s Keystone Pipeline in October 2016. Chilled, early morning air stabbed his lungs as he stepped from the rental car and into a beet field, bolt cutters in one hand, yellow chrysanthemums in the other.

The pipeline’s emergency shut-off valve, a secluded area wrapped by a wire-link fence, was only a stone’s throw away from where he parked along a dirt road. He’d already scouted the area, had done his homework, but Michael Foster’s pulse quickened.

Finally, I get to do something real, shut down the Keystone 1 Pipeline. How quickly can law enforcement arrive? Can I get through the locks in time? Will the valve be difficult to turn?

Michael Foster faces up to 23 years inprisonment for stopping the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota – photo by C.S. Hagen

He had traveled grudgingly by plane nearly 1,500 miles from Seattle, Washington, to become what is known as a valve turner. Foster had a vivid daydream that sheriff’s deputies would be waiting for him. Militarized police videos he’d seen from the standoff at Standing Rock were chilling enough. Surely his little group of environmental activists – white, middle class, middle-aged, and suburban – had committed mistakes, triggering algorithms.

Only the night before on October 10, 2016, in a hotel pub, eating a plate of fries and ketchup, Foster couldn’t speak with comrades of his intentions for fear of being overheard, but now a live streamer and a filmmaker followed his every move, revealing to the world as he committed felonies. Internet signal was intermittent, keeping Sam Jessup’s live stream from broadcasting Foster’s initial moments.

I challenge this oil going through this pipeline. It’s illegal, and I have to stop it. Follow protocol.

The pipeline companies were notified – twice – before Foster stepped up to the first barrier. Cameras were in place.

“We called the pipeline companies about 10 to 15 minutes before, to give them the opportunity to shut down remotely or do whatever they wanted to do,” Foster said. “The point wasn’t to do anything risky, the point was to do it procedurally, and respectfully, and stop the flow. Kind of the opposite of terrorism.”

The first lock snapped easily as a bicycle’s chain, he said. So did the second, which secured the valve, a four-foot wide iron wheel.

“From then on I was in this euphoric moment, and was like ‘damn, I’m in the right moment at this right place in history,’” Foster said. “And there was fear, just because any time you are dealing with heavy machinery you have to be humble.” 

The valve slid easily, righty tighty lefty loosey. Foster spun – fast – wanting to complete his mission before law enforcement arrived.

“At first it was easy,” Foster said. “And then it wasn’t. It started to get really tough by the time I was thinking I was done. I had been at it for a while. I thought they had turned it down remotely.”

He gave the valve one more turn, then another for good measure. Then another, and then another. The wheel kept turning.

“He is the only one of us who actually turned off manually the pipeline,” Leonard Higgins, another valve turner who shut down a Montana pipeline the same day, said. Higgins’ target was automated, and he had more difficulty cutting the locks than he did with the valve. “Michael turned this huge wheel like a hundred times.” 

Eventually, the valve could move no more. Foster locked it down with his own chain, placed the flowers as a symbolic statement for the world to move to alternate energy. Job finished, he had time to think before law enforcement arrived. He was going to jail.

In a way, his trip to North Dakota had brought his environmental activism life full circle: he grew up where the pipelines end in the Gulf of Mexico, and now he was waiting for arrest where the crude oil from Canada entered the United States. His awareness to environmental issues and global warming has taken their tolls, and then some. His insistence on reducing the family’s carbon footprint recently cost him his marriage. He rarely is able to see his two daughters.

As a child, he barely knew his parents. His mother left, and his father was gunned down outside a Houston bar; mostly his grandparents, “mom and pop,” raised him. Foster, 52, spent 20 years as a mental health therapist before he volunteered to become a valve turner.

His thoughts turned to his children, and how much he loves them, despite the fact that becoming a valve turner rewrote his family history. Although he was educating youth across Puget Sound, his own children were no longer by his side.

“I was about to break the law to stop fossil fuels, something I told them not to do because it alienates people.” Foster remembered thinking. “Plus, I would never want them to go get arrested, but we’re out of time now. I needed to do something to stop the flow and burning of oil right away, or they’re toast.”

Currently, Foster is involved with Climate Direct Action and Al Gore’s initiative, Climate Reality project. In the last five years, Foster has spoken to more than 13,000 people from behind pulpits to rallies about global warming issues. He is also a kayaktivist with the Mosquito Fleet Rapid Response Team, trying to delay oil rigs, ships, and pipelines, what he refers to as “monster death stars” for as long as possible. 

The morning on October 11, 2016 was cloudy, cold. Shivers followed the euphoria of shutting down the pipeline.

“That wind was blowing. It was cold, I was glad when he showed up.” 

Still amazed that the plan worked, Foster greeted the sheriff’s deputy when he arrived. The deputy nonchalantly rolled down the window, and asked what was going on.

I guess we looked like what he expected to find,” Foster said. “We were white, and we were not doing anything when they arrived. We weren’t defending, we were just standing there, bolt cutters in hand, waiting. Kinda like in my dream, we came here to shut off the pipeline.”

Foster told him, showed him everything, retraced his steps, handing over the bolt cutters.

“We agreed ahead of time that we were going to share exactly what we had done and why,” Higgins said.

Handcuffs followed, and he was later charged and arraigned with crimes that could lead to 81 years imprisonment. Jessup, and documentary filmmaker Deia Scholsberg were arrested in Walhalla, North Dakota for shutting down Transcanada’s Keystone pipeline.  Schlosberg was to spend 48 hours in solitary confinement because no other women were in lockup, Foster said.

“The state was pretty heavy handed,” Foster said. “There were FBI agents there to just chat with me while I was sitting there in jail. But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do this,” Foster recently returned to North Dakota for court proceedings.

“If I can think of something that can be done, and I don’t do it, I couldn’t live with myself. Whatever inconvenience I might face is nothing compared to the suffering or the vibrancy of the living world to come. There’s a world calling being made, there are voices, and creatures, and animals and plants, and people, I know they’re coming, just as sure as we have ancestors we have never met, just as we will have descendants we will never meet. I cannot be an observer.”

Foster later learned that the collective act of climate disobedience halted 15 percent of US oil consumption for the day. On October 13, 2016, oil stock prices dipped. The White House brought up oil pipeline infrastructure issues the next day. Keystone employees called him and his comrades terrorists. The five activists were involved in the “most expansive, coordinated, takeover of fossil fuel infrastructure ever attempted in the USA,” according to Reuters.

“There’s years and years of living with this despair and being aware of these issues,” Foster said. “Whatever it is, there’s that sense of we have to do something.” 

“And so we stopped all the tar sands from Canada to the US. I still look at my hands sometimes and say, ‘wow, I turned off the Keystone Pipeline.’”

Michael Foster hanging yellow chrysnathemums along his own chain securing the Keystone Pipeline valve – photo provided by Michael Foster

Big oil and the state’s response
While sitting in the lunchroom at Balkowitsch Enterprises, Inc., a medical product line distributor in Bismarck, Foster and Higgins recalled some of their greatest fears of shutting down the Keystone Pipeline.

With thousands of hot crude pouring through the pipeline every minute, what if something went wrong? What if they couldn’t finish their missions before police arrived?

“When Transcanda called the Sheriff, they called it a terrorist attack,” Foster said. “But they did not shut off the valve remotely. If that was your pipeline carrying 590,000 barrels of bitumen at 150 degrees F across the continent and you thought there was a terroristic attack on your pipeline, you should shut it down.”

“We were thinking that maybe they wouldn’t believe it, and that’s why we had people to live stream,” Higgins said. 

Nothing did go wrong, however, except that nearly 2.3 million barrels of bitumen were stopped, for a time.

All five pipes, two in Minnesota, one in Montana, one in North Dakota, and one in Washington, were shut down simultaneously. In Pembina County’s seat, Cavalier, Foster originally faced seven charges, which have been dropped to five, with a potential 23 years in prison, he said. Cavalier had its 15 minutes of fame when a YouTube video was posted of an “alien abduction” on the city’s webcam. 

“I feel like I have already gotten 50 percent off,” Foster said. “We planned for the necessity of defense, and the whole plan included staying out there until law enforcement arrived.” 

A necessity defense is used to shield people who must break the law in order to prevent greater harm.

The five valve turners include Foster, Ken Ward, 59, of Corbette, Oregon, who was recently found technically guilty, but received no additional jail time in Skagit County Superior Court in Washington State. Foster’s day is coming on October 2, in Cavalier, North Dakota.  

Other valve turners, Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle, Washington, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, are still waiting their court dates. 

If the State’s Attorney throws the book at Foster, he’s ready, he said.

“Let them, I don’t get to choose that,” Foster said. “I got to choose whether to cut the chains whether to turn off the flow of this poison. The court has to decide what justice looks like for me. But I am going to have the ability to tell them why I did what I did.” 

Foster is no spy, he’s not a hero, he is just a middle-aged man trying to warn people about the future. After spending two days in jail, he’s grateful he has the chance to tell his story.

“I get to walk around telling this story, like I am some James Bond or Indiana Jones. I didn’t do squat, comparatively speaking, and the people who are paying the price is not me. I get all the benefits even when I mess up and draw down the wrath of the oil companies and the oil state, and they all want a piece of me, I still got all the benefits.”

He believes his chances of a not guilty verdict on October 2 aren’t good. Michael Hoffman, a Bismarck trial lawyer, is defending Foster. The nonprofit Climate Defense Project, three Harvard trained attorneys, the Civil Liberties Defense Center, and the Climate Disobedience Center, are providing support.

“I’m going to try to prove to a jury of my farmer piers that what I did was not a crime because I was protecting their crops, was protecting their fields, and I was protecting their kids,” Foster said during a speech earlier this year. “I probably won’t win, but I’m going to do a heck of a job trying to convince them to opening up that conversation, opening up that door.”

Some call him an eco terrorist, but the title doesn’t faze him or Higgins.

“Really, for me my case is about proving the crime that took place that day, October 11, was when the oil company came and cut the lock off the valve that I put there and turned that oil back on,” Foster said. “That was a crime against humanity and nature.”

“The real terrorists are the people that are perpetrating this violence to the earth,” Higgins said. 

The five valve turners – Climate Direct Action photo

August 16, 2017
The life of activism is full of dizzyingly short victories, and long dry spells of defeats. When defeat hits home, Foster sleeps. 

“Really, I sleep,” Foster said. “So what do I do about that? I just carry it with me, it fills my head. It distracts me. It keeps me awake. I try and write something, sometimes I manage something, sometimes I don’t. Call somebody, just in conversation find some friends and allies, and see if I can help them see things my way, that’s all I can do.” 

Tension revolving around climate change issues is only worsening now with President Donald Trump in office. 

“More people are joining the fight,” Higgins said. “That’s the opposite side of the same coin.” 

“We’re working on a lot of false solutions,” Foster said. “And I’m having a tough time speaking out against it. A lot of people in the environmental movement put in a lot of time and hours into something that will be just a dead end. It’s a dead end. 

“But I’m pretty far out there as far as policies and solutions, because I really am focused on getting the planet back to a stable climate.”

Shutting down the Canadian Keystone pipelines was the brainchild of Climate Direct Action, a nonprofit activist group founded by Foster, Higgins, and other likeminded people. 

The decision stemmed from a question asked in the spring of 2016 of people involved with Climate Direct Action — would you be interested in having a conversation that would put you in danger of arrest?

“Everyone who got involved in this conversation was already 100 percent in, and once we got into the conversation there were different levels – how much do you want to be involved? There were wonderful, long conversations where people could share their feelings and fears. Everyone was free to decide on how much they felt good about.”

“There was a larger discussion that was theoretical and then that discussion finished and the core group went forward,” Higgins said. “When the core group went forward, the others were involved in some way.” 

For months, Foster feared that their little group of middle-aged men and women had somehow alerted authorities, and that their mission was doomed.

“There were some messages that were sent, some calls that were made that made us go, ‘Oops.’ I had a pretty strong feeling that the sheriffs were going to be waiting for us, here in North Dakota and everywhere. Somebody, somewhere, we tripped some algorithm and they’ll be waiting for us to show up.” 

Foster has only one regret about shutting down the Keystone Pipeline.

“We wrestled with the idea that shutting off the pipeline is good because it stops X barrels of bitumen, then shutting off the pipeline X times would be that many more times better,” Foster said.

“I only wish I could have stopped more oil. This system is wrong, it’s a crime, it has to stop, and I’m here to stop it.

At times, Foster’s eyes water, his voice cracks not with sadness, but with conviction. Despite the upcoming trial he jokes. “I just wish I could have locked it with some kind of radioactive, kryptonite lock.

“When they removed my padlock to reopen the flow of tar sands oil to heat the planet, they committed a crime against humanity and nature as deadly as any gas chamber,” Foster said. “Every gallon of gasoline burned to drive our kids to school traps 40 million times more heat energy over the centuries. It’s a crime with a distinct fingerprint.

“Reopening that valve legally pulled the trigger on our kids 30 years from now.”

In states where the temperatures easily dip well below zero during the winter months, changing to alternative energy is not a simple matter, Foster said. “But if we can’t live the solution, we really have no right to talk,” he said.

“That’s a question I want all of us to wrestle with every single day,” Foster said. “If burning fossil fuels is a crime against humanity, why are we still doing this? Why should I be contributing to the demise of those I love in 2017? We need to resist this system.”

Downsizing, installing rocket stoves that burn wood, solar panels, and wind power are all viable options, he said. The earth needs one trillion trees, that’s 150 new trees planted by every person on earth.

While the planet begins to cook, some people say it’s over, we blew it, now let’s party, Foster said. Others turn a blind eye, kicking the problem for future generations.

“What does it mean to be alive on a planet that is dead man walking?” Foster said. “I don’t know how bad it has to get to force change. We need everybody doing everything all the time. It’s criminal not to take action today.”

Civilization has existed for 10,000 years, Foster said, the next 10,000 years depend on the human race today.

“One person cannot change the world.” Foster’s eyes twinkle. He folds his hands and leans closer. “But one person can change the world.”

Michael Foster and Leonard Higgins, both valve turners, discuss a wet plat photograph event with Bismarck native Shane Balkowitsch – photo by C.S. Hagen

 

 

Big Oil Strikes Back

Energy Transfer Partners sues dozens of organization and individuals involved against the Dakota Access Pipeline

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– Using incendiary language, big oil struck back at activists and NoDAPL organizations Tuesday, demanding a jury trial. Defendants included in the long list are called racketeers, parasites, rogue eco-terrorists, and criminals, and Energy Transfer Partners alleges they conspired to defame the oil rich company.

Filed in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, the lawsuit lists Greenpeace International, Greenpeace Inc., 350.org, the Bold Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, BankTrack, Earth First!, and other organization and individuals as defendants.

On behalf of Energy Transfer Partners, Fargo’s Vogel Law Firm and New York City’s Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, alleged that the defendants processed millions of dollars and fraudulently induced donations. The lawsuit also specified that the defendants issued “sensational lies, and intentionally incited physical violence, property destruction, and other criminal conduct.”

The lawsuit was filed approximately three months after the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board filed a civil lawsuit against TigerSwan, LLC, the security “fusion leader” for Energy Transfer Partners. The lawsuit stated TigerSwan and its founder, James Patrick Reese, and other security companies involved, worked illegally in North Dakota.

Energy Transfer Partners also faces allegations of misconduct while constructing the pipeline filed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission. An initial meeting to discuss the issues was scheduled last week in Bismarck, but was postponed until October.

Earlier in August, the Dakota Resource Council, a non-partisan watchdog group, also compiled a report stating that the oil boom in the Bakken is endangering people’s health, and that the state lacks meaningful standards for detecting and repairing leaks.

“Each day, oil and gas activities across the state spring leaks that spew toxic pollution into the air, like an invisible spill,” the report stated. “The smog that pollution causes to form is endangering the health of communities across North Dakota.”

While Standing Rock attorneys claim activists were peaceful, and that infiltrators were at least in part the ones behind the violence along the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners is fingering activists and the organizations, claiming a pattern of criminal activity was supported through tax-free charitable organizations.

The lawsuit also stated that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was tricked into protesting the pipeline on lies trumped up by Earthjustice, one of the largest nonprofit environmental law organizations in the United States. The lawsuit highlighted a July 26, 2016 press release issued by Earthjustice, which stated the pipeline would be a threat to the surrounding communities and the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

“The reason the tribe had not previously alleged the objections trumpeted by the press release accompanying the new lawsuit was simple,” the lawsuit stated. “The claims were false. They were asserted at the eleventh hour by Earthjustice to the press with the express purpose of attaching itself, like a parasite, to the tribe’s cause, and using it to incite an international outcry designed to serve the agenda of the enterprise.

“The enterprise [Earthjustice] exploited the impoverished tribe’s cause for its own end.”

The lawsuit further alleged that $500,000 of “seed money” was given to the Red Warrior Camp, who are “violent eco-terrorists.”

Additionally, the Red Warrior Camp also “engaged in illegal drug trade by using donation money to buy drugs out of state and sell them at the camps at enormous profits,” the lawsuit stated.

Furthermore, Energy Transfer Partners said in the lawsuit that activists, who were a mob, intentionally incited and engaged in criminal and civil trespass, rioting, assaults, and attacks on police and “innocent workers, chasing police and construction staff with vehicles, horses, and dogs.”

“The complaint asserts that the attacks were calculated and thoroughly irresponsible, causing enormous harm to people and property along the pipeline’s route,” a press release from Energy Transfer Partners stated. “Dakota Access was a legally permitted project that underwent nearly three years of rigorous environmental review and for this reason, Energy Transfer believes it has an obligation to its shareholders, partners, stakeholders, and all those negatively impacted by the violence and destruction intentionally incited by the defendants to file this lawsuit.”

Many of the companies named in the lawsuit have deep pockets. In 2015, Earthjustice had a revenue of $45 million, Greenpeace Inc. an income amount of $36,893,837, the Sierra Club exceeded an annual income of more than $121 million, 350.org a revenue of $11.2 million, and the Rainforest Action Network more than $7 million, according to Charity Navigator.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said the lawsuit carries all the shackles of a SLAPP lawsuit.

“This is the second consecutive year Donald Trump’s go-to attorneys at the Kasowitz law firm have filed a meritless lawsuit against Greenpeace,” Wetterer said. “They are apparently trying to market themselves as corporate mercenaries willing to abuse the legal system to silence legitimate advocacy work. This complaint repackages spurious allegations and legal claims made against Greenpeace by the Kasowitz firm on behalf of Resolute Forest Products in a lawsuit filed in May 2016. It is yet another classic ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP), not designed to seek justice, but to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation. This has now become a pattern of harassment by corporate bullies, with Trump’s attorneys leading the way.”

Whether the lawsuit could be considered a SLAPP lawsuit was not clear yet. SLAPP, or a strategic lawsuit against public participation, is a lawsuit intended to censor, silence, or intimidate critics with the burden of high legal costs to force abandonment of criticism or opposition.

Delaware, the state in which Energy Transfer Partners is registered, has weak anti-SLAPP laws, which were enacted in 1992, according to the Public Participation Project. North Dakota does not have any anti-SLAPP legislation, and Texas, where Energy Transfer Partners is headquartered, has formidable anti-SLAPP laws enacted in 2011.

Lawyers with the Water Protectors Legal Collective, a legal team defending NoDAPL activists, said in June that federal agents and private security were responsible for much of the violence, and pointed to more than 114 cases out of the total 854, which have already been thrown out of court.

“As we’re learning that there was some kind of infiltration by either the FBI or TigerSwan, or both, we think it should become an issue in the cases that the state should have to prove that some of those people who were engaging in that kind of activity were law enforcement or infiltrators,” Water Protectors Legal Collective attorney Andrea Carter said in June.

“The No-DAPL water protectors withstood extreme violence from militarized police at Standing Rock and now the state admits that it cannot substantiate the alleged justification for that violence,” Water Protector Legal Collective attorney Jacob Reisberg said in a press release in June.

Water Protector Legal Collective attorneys and Earthjustice were contacted for comment. An attorney for the Water Protector Legal Collective said the law firm needed a day or two in order to fully read the lawsuit and issue a response.

Dakota Access Faces Allegations of Misconduct

Second allegation filed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission to be discussed next week in public hearing

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– While some in the Peace Garden State claim Standing Rock activists are terrorists, jihadists, or simply troublemakers, the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline are also apparently far from innocent.

In addition to a civil lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board against international security company TigerSwan, the company now faces allegations of misconduct filed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

Two investigations from North Dakota Public Service Commission are now pending, involving Dakota Access, LLC.

On May 31, 2017, the Commission opened an investigation into Dakota Access, LLC’s work along the pipeline route.

“DAPL agreed to and participated in a preconstruction conference to ensure that the company fully understood the conditions set forth in the Commission’s order upon which the certificate and permit were granted,” a 33-page staff memorandum in response to the opened investigation stated. The memorandum was written by John Schuh, a staff attorney for the Commission, and by Sara Cardwell.

Fuel tank improperly protected – North Dakota Public Service Commission

“There were a number of deficiencies and possible violations that were recorded such as debris left on the right of way, unsafe work practices, silt fences in disrepair, and not being compliant with the North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Section guidelines.”

Additionally, wood matting was laid down in sensitive areas, cultural sites were discovered and the company rerouted without alerting the Commission in a timely manner. The pipeline company was also charged 83 times with destroying trees and landscape past 85 feet on either side of the pipeline, according to the memorandum.

The North Dakota section of the pipeline is 210 miles long, running through Mountrail, Williams, McKenzie, Dunn, Mercer, Morton, and Emmons counties, and cost an estimated $1.41 billion, according to the Commission.

“This will be an investigative hearing, it’s kind of a first step,” Consumer Affairs Specialist with the Commission Stacy Eberl, said. “The commissioners have asked the company to come in and give their side of the story on some allegations that staff brought forward concerning tree removal, subsoil segregation, and a fuel tank that didn’t have the proper containment unit around it.

“It’s a mix of different things that were noticed after construction,” Eberl said. “The other separate complaint has to deal with an incident where a cultural resource was discovered while they were building, and that’s the one where the company rerouted around the site, which was good, but they failed to notify the Commission. That one is holding right now. There is nothing formal on how they will resolve this quite yet.”

Dakota Access, LLC could be fined a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for each violation for each day the violations persist, except the maximum penalty cannot exceed $200,000 for any related series of violations, Eberl said.

DAPL tree and shrub clearing greater than 85 feet – North Dakota Public Service Commission

Eberl couldn’t say if Dakota Access, LLC representatives were cooperating with the investigation.

“When we have an open case the Commission has to stay neutral because they are the judges,” Eberl said.

Keitu Engineers & Consultants, Inc. performed the third-party construction consulting services, conducting inspections almost weekly from May 2016 until February 2017, according to the memorandum.

“Keitu’s conclusion was that overall the project was generally maintained and in good condition,” the memorandum stated. “However, Keitu did find that there were deficiencies.”

The most common problem discovered was inadequate soil segregation – meaning subsoil and topsoil were piled together. An inspection on August 24, 2016 discovered tree removal extended beyond not only the 50 feet agreed upon in certification documents, but also beyond the 85 feet extension approved later by the Commission upon DAPL’s request, according to the memorandum.

An August 4, 2016 investigation led to the discovery of a fuel trailer, which was not properly contained, according to the memorandum.

North Dakota has been the deadliest state to work in for five years running. The 2017 edition of “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect,” compiled by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, a national trade union center and the largest federation of unions in America, reported its latest statistics for 2015 that 12.5 North Dakota workers per 100,000 were injured on the job, and 47 people died while on the job.

Statistics for 2016 are not yet available.

On March 23, 2017, Mike Futch, the DAPL Project Manager for North Dakota, replied to the allegations saying that there exists a difference of opinions between inspectors, but that he would be willing to discuss the issues. Dakota Access, LLC used a company called Duraroot Environmental Consulting to perform its own investigation, which denied the company was liable in many of the cases cited by the Commission.

The public hearing on the issues will be conducted on Thursday, August 17, at 8:30am in the Commission’s Hearing Room in the capitol building.

TigerSwan’s Troubles

Open records request info: disregard for state laws, citizens, and property

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN – Trouble followed TigerSwan everywhere the security company went in the Peace Garden State.

Tasked with the mission to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline by Energy Transfer Partners, TigerSwan stepped into a messy scene — chaotic — but the well oiled former Army Delta Force-led security machine went straight to work, starting at the local airport.

Records obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that the security company signed leases not with Mandan Municipal Airport’s Authority, but with companies the airport leased to — which was a breach of contract.

Rectifying the issue was complicated, airport authorities said, and wasn’t cleared up until shortly before TigerSwan left North Dakota earlier this month, nearly a year after their arrival.

Before TigerSwan’s arrival, police were driven back repeatedly from front lines. Former Governor Jack Dalrymple declared an emergency state to seek federal funds and to bring in the North Dakota National Guard. Activists chaining themselves to sleeping tar dragons stopped pipeline construction, daily. Arrests hovered around 29. Days later, Ohio-based Frost Kennels employees were siccing attack dogs on activists defending water and land rights. Other security companies, some without proper licenses, also wanted a piece of Energy Transfer Partners protection budget. Morton County couldn’t keep up with the activists surging into the camps, which at its height became the state’s tenth largest community.

But it was TigerSwan that was chosen for the “fusion lead.” The international security company, known as a mercenary-for-hire agency with government contracts around the world, coordinated security companies such as Bismarck’s 10 Code Security, EH Investigations and Security, LLC, and Leighton Security Services, from Texas. They inserted their own liaison into the law enforcement’s “Joint Operation Command,” thereby fusing private and public intelligence operations, according to documents released by The Intercept.

“There were four different security companies involved,” Mandan Municipal Airport Authority Chairman Mike Wagner said. “And we lumped them into one and called them DAPL Security.”

TigerSwan, EH Investigations and Security, LLC, and Leighton Security Services, Inc., are all named in a civil lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board for working illegally in the state.

Activists tackled by DAPL Security

Additional law enforcement, the North Dakota National Guard, and TigerSwan’s arrival dramatically shifted the prairies into what was called a war zone by United Nations Chief Edward John. Organized police phalanxes began marching down Highway 1806. Law enforcement lines became impregnable, twisted with razor wire, cement blocks, and bolstered with water cannons and long range acoustic weapons. Helicopters flew like locusts, and never truly left.

DAPL Security came in wearing khakis and bulletproof vests. Lip sweaters and chin curtains painstakingly frayed as urban lumbersexuals, they stampeded into the Dakota plains in 4×4 pickup trucks and all-terrain vehicles.

Private security personnel outside of Standing Rock near DAPL – online sources

They roamed the rolling hills freely, backed by law enforcement, tackling those who strayed too far on lands once owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Activists practicing free speech became terrorists, jihadists, and the propaganda was disseminated to big-oil-trusted mainstream media outlets across the state, such as the Scott Hennen Show on AM 1100 “The Flag,” Rob Port’s “Say Anything Blog” owned by Forum Communications Company, and TigerSwan’s propaganda arm, Netizens for Progress and Justice, which according to its website is a “countering the leftist media propaganda nightmare” media outlet.

TigerSwan also “attempted to place undercover private security agents within the protest group to carry out investigative and surveillance activities against these groups on behalf of Energy Transfer Partner and others,” the civil lawsuit states. Security teams monitored vehicles, gathered intelligence, provided “around the clock protection” and security for the “resumption of construction” of the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to the civil lawsuit.

Where eagles and vultures once ruled, DAPL Security covered the skies using Double M Helicopters, testing software, spying on activists with long-range lenses.

Two months after TigerSwan’s arrival, arrests jumped to 410.


 According to the civil action filings filed by the governor-appointed private security board, TigerSwan ignored warnings saying they were working only as consultants. In response to  the lawsuit, a TigerSwan representative identified as TS Press said this week via email that “we were not providing security, but consulting services.”

DAPL Security’s arrival at the Mandan Municipal Airport set management on edge. Clear Sky Aviation, Inc. was under a 20-year contract with the airport authority, a contract signed on November 1, 2012, stipulating the company, which according to its website is managed by Double M Helicopters, did not have the authority to sublease.

The stated purpose of the lease was for Clear Sky to “use the premises solely for regular airport and aviation business purposes, including, but not limited to, aircraft charter or rental, aircraft repairs and maintenance, major or minor, aircraft sales, aircraft flight instructions,” according to the contract.

But Clear Sky Aviation violated its lease when it subleased a part of a hangar to TigerSwan’s John Porter, Energy Transfer Partner’s chief security advisor, according to airport records.

“On August 26, 2016, without the prior written approval of MAA, Clear Skies entered into a lease agreement with ‘DAPL Security,’” the Mandan Airport Authority reported.

The Mandan Municipal Airport also signed a 20-year lease with Mandan Aviation, LLC, on October 17, 2012, and on September 2016 struck an oral sublease agreement with TigerSwan, breaking section 21 of the original lease agreement, according to an April 23 letter written to owner David Barth from Wagner. Mandan Aviation subleased office space in the upper level of the south end of the Mandan Aviation hangar, according to a consent to sublease contract.

The subleases not only violated contracts, they put the airport’s future in jeopardy. Airport land and buildings can only be used for aeronautical purposes, according to airport authorities. Any additional use must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Mandan Municipal Airport is publicly owned, and is a part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, which allows the airport to receive federal grants under the Airport Improvement Program. The airport’s grants came into question when TigerSwan arrived, as according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations Airport Compliance Program all airport property must be available for aeronautical use, and not available for non-aeronautical purposes unless approved by the FAA.

Clear Sky Aviation, Inc. was established on June 22, 2012, and is registered to Cindy Becker; Double M Helicopters was registered on September 3, 2009 to Monte Myers, and Mandan Aviation, LLC was registered on June 14, 2006 to Barth, according to North Dakota Secretary of State records. No records exist for Clear Skies Aviation in the North Dakota Secretary of State.

According to emails, contracts, and recorded meeting minutes obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, airport management pondered whether or not to kick DAPL Security out of the airport, or to require payments from the companies involved if the airport lost federal grant monies needed for a perimeter fence next year. If FAA permission was not granted, the airport stood to lose upwards of $2 million, airport records state.

Although DAPL Security entered the airport after county, state, and federal law enforcement set up a headquarters, TigerSwan stayed after law enforcement left, posting guards and interfering with air traffic and personnel, according to airport records.

“You can’t get answers. They won’t talk,” Mandan Municipal Airport Manager Jim Lawler wrote in an email on October 27. “I would like to see them gone.”  

Wagner pointed out the issues in a response to Lawler’s email.

“There are a couple of things affecting the airport wastewater system, parking, driving on the airside, parking equipment on the airside without permission, complaints from users of feeling intimidated when entering the airport and living at the airport,” Wagner said. “They continue to guard the entrance. Would we be a target if they weren’t here, and are we a target after they leave?”

“Also, no contact from the people that promised to be in my office everyday,” Wagner wrote. “Just because they are chartering the helicopters is not a reason to allow use of office space and living quarters to non-aviation businesses. All of this is also part of the grant assurances which we sign as part of the FAA AIP funding, and could jeopardize that funding.”

TigerSwan operatives left messes behind, documents report. Bathrooms weren’t cleaned. Septic tanks were filled. Six chairs went missing.

“In a general sense it was them becoming acclimated to being on airport property,” Wagner said. “I think a lot of it was misunderstanding. As soon as they were instructed, they were good about correcting it.”

Nearly three months after TigerSwan arrived, negotiations began over lease pricing, and the issue came up during the airport authority’s board meeting on November 21, 2016. The Mandan Municipal Airport Authority decided to first obtain FAA approval, develop a security plan, a code of conduct, and then charge a fair market rate, not aeronautical rates, which are cheaper.

Later that same night, while law enforcement sprayed hundreds of activists with a water cannon in freezing temperatures, Myers, owner of Double M Helicopters, was still attempting to obtain signed sublease agreements from TigerSwan, according to a November 22, 2016 email.

The morning after, TigerSwan director, Al Ornoski, congratulated a list of people ranging from TigerSwan operatives, airport and Fusion Center personnel, 10 Code Security, and others.

“Outstanding job, thanks to everyone for your dedication, support and work during last night’s critical event,” Ornoski wrote.

Three days after the “critical event,” Myers wrote Lawler an email, which included the sublease agreement.

“I think the one point that was missed on this whole deal at the board meeting was the end result of all this is the Mandan Airport now has 24-hour security at no cost to the airport itself,” Myers wrote. “Without a security fence and some sort of restricted access gate, all are extremely vulnerable at the Mandan Municipal Airport. With the situation as it is in Morton County, this seems a win/win for the airport.”

Private security personnel along pipeline route – online sources

Myers also reported that activists used the FAA database to determine owners of the airplanes involved against the Standing Rock camps, and that he was being threatened.

“Don’t believe much of what you read on Facebook, or some of these other publications. The comments about tail numbers, using the helicopters as weapons, dropping objects on them, spraying them with mustard gas, flying over them at night with all our lights off and spraying them with pesticides is obviously crazy.”

True reports included a Double M Helicopter herding more than 200 buffalo away from police lines, and activists shooting at helicopters with arrows, or flying drones toward them, according to Myers.

“The helicopter was a very effective tool to direct the buffalo back into the pasture that the protesters had knocked the fence down earlier that day,” Myers said.

After Myers’ email, the Mandan Municipal Airport Authority became worried about their own safety, asking if TigerSwan, had completed  a threat assessment of Mandan Airport.

Nearing Christmas, arrests jumped again to 571.

The leasing dispute lasted more than nine months, until an April 3 airport executive session meeting, when the board decided if FAA permission was not granted, then eviction notices would be sent out.

The issue became an ask for forgiveness or permission, and it was already too late to ask for permission. Airport authorities feared “potential adversarial administrative proceedings with the FAA,” which could “have an adverse fiscal effect on the bargaining or litigation position of MAA.”

“Beg for forgiveness [to the FAA] that we weren’t even aware of this, and now that we are, we’re trying to remedy,” Lawler said during the 30-minute board meeting. Breach of the original lease agreement “put the board in the awkward position of trying to figure out what our duties and obligations were as board members.”

In April, the airport authority agreed to proceed as if they had been approached before the sublease agreements were entered, rather than as a breach of the original lease, according to Wagner.

FAA Program Manager Donald Phillips was contacted by airport authority in April, approximately six weeks before TigerSwan left the state to continue protecting oil pipelines in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. On May 26, emails indicate that the FAA did not object to the temporary non-aeronautical use of airport property “during the DAPL protest.”

The reason the issue took more than nine months to resolve is because Mandan Municipal Airport has seen enormous change in the past few years, Wagner said. Airport authorities have been scrambling to study a 600-page FAA rulebook.

“It took some time to get up to speed and get educated,” Wagner said. “The FAA’s primary role in the whole thing was to make sure we weren’t going to violate grant assurances and that included making sure a non-aeronautical rate was applied rather than aeronautical.” Aeronautical rates are cheaper, Wagner said.

By the end of the leasing controversy, long after the last tents and trash were cleared from along the Cannonball River, airport authorities agreed to accepting 10 percent of all payments made by DAPL Security to the aeronautical companies. Mandan Aviation charged $1,300 a month, and Clear Sky Aviation received checks for their sublease agreements worth $35,000, of which $3,500 was to be given to the airport authority. On June 19, Lawler said he received a check for $2,100 from Clear Sky Aviation.

Official records indicate 761 people were arrested during the DAPL controversy, and already 114 cases have been dismissed by the state. Eleven people received guilty verdicts; 50 pled guilty – primarily on lesser charges, and three have been acquitted, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective. Numbers from the legal firm report a total of 854 people were arrested.

TigerSwan and Co. responses
Early morning, February 17, 2017, site security advisor for TigerSwan, Stuart Kortus, alerted airport authorities that he would be flying at 250 feet.

“I will be conducting a test flight to test new software,” Kortus said. “I will be near the field to the west between hangars and Highway 6.”

Kortus did not reply to requests for more information pertaining to what kinds of software TigerSwan was testing near Standing Rock.

A TigerSwan representative, identified only as TS Press, replied to a request for information, saying the claims made in official Mandan Municipal Airport documents were, in essence, fake news.

“Your questions are rooted in speculation and heresy [hearsay] and show that you seem interested in perpetuating the same false narratives about our work that have been manufactured by groups that seek to malign a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business,” TS Press stated in an email. “We appreciate your inquiry, but until you take a more objective view of the facts, we will not respond to your questions and will continue working with the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board to convey the realities of our work in North Dakota.”

A second email from TS Press stated that TigerSwan “never had a contract at the airport.”

Ornoski, listed as a director of DAPL Security ND, or TigerSwan, hung up the phone when contacted. Myers was contacted by telephone and email, messages were left, but Myers did not reply for comment.

When Barth of Mandan Aviation was contacted, he said the situation was complicated.

“We have attorneys involved, and what you may or may not write may or may not be the truth,” Barth said. “So, if I were you, I would just keep my nose out of it.”

DAPL cases dropped by state in record numbers

Defense lawyers: TigerSwan infiltration and police entrapment should be recognized by courts

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN – After being handcuffed, forced to strip, locked in dog cages, and hauled to jails across the state, hundreds charged with crimes during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy are finding vindication through North Dakota’s court system.

Officially, 761 people were arrested during the months-long opposition to the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, and already 114 cases have been dismissed by the state. Eleven people received guilty verdicts; 50 pled guilty – primarily on lesser charges, and three have been acquitted.

The state cannot meet the elements of offenses as charged, defense lawyers say.

“In an attempt to extract guilty pleas, the state is waiting to dismiss each case until the last minute before trial, which has created great hardship and uncertainty for many water protectors,” Water Protector Legal Collective attorney Jacob Reisberg said in a press release. “The No-DAPL water protectors withstood extreme violence from militarized police at Standing Rock and now the state admits that it cannot substantiate the alleged justification for that violence.”

While the Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported 761 people were arrested, the Water Protectors Legal Collective reports the actual number is higher: 854.  

A total of 552 cases remain open, Water Protectors Legal Collective staff attorney Andrea Carter said. Last weekend, one of activists involved in arguably one of the most controversial cases also had charges against him dropped.

Less than a week after former Leighton Security Services project manager Kyle Thompson went live on Digital Smoke Signals to speak about his experience working security along the Dakota Access Pipeline route, the state dropped charges against Brennon Nastacio, charged with a Class C felony of terrorism.

Nastacio, 36, a Pueblo Native American nicknamed “Bravo One,” was charged for his participation in stopping Thompson, who wielded a semi-automatic AR-15, on October 27, 2016.

On June 14, Assistant State’s Attorney Gabrielle Goter of Morton County filed a motion to dismiss the charge, which came days before the scheduled deposition of North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Scott Betz, who was instrumental in Nastacio’s prosecution. Depositions were also scheduled for two FBI agents involved in the transfer of Thompson for BIA custody to the Morton County Jail, and for Thompson, according to Nastacio’s lawyers Bruce Nestor and Jeffrey Haas.

“This was a case where Mr. Nastacio acted to protect himself and others,” Nestor and Haas said. “He should have been thanked and not prosecuted for his bravery.”

“The feeling is good,” Nastacio said. “Now I just need to concentrate on my other case.”

Nastacio was indicted on February 8 on federal charges of civil disorder and use of fire to commit a federal crime, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of North Dakota.

Michael Fasig and Israel Hernandez also face felony charges over the same incident. Class C terrorizing charges carry up to a five-year prison sentence.

Myron Dewey, “Strong Thinker,” Paiute Shoshone – wet plate by Shane Balkowitsch

Other salient cases include the state dropping charges against drone operator and owner of Digital Smoke Signals, Myron Dewey, and rap artist Aaron Sean Turgeon, also known as ‘Prolific the Rapper.’

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland recently agreed to the conditional release of Redfawn Fallis to a halfway house from where she’s being held in Rugby. Fallis’s arrest, which was filmed live, has become one of the movement’s most viewed recordings. Police say she discharged a handgun while being tackled by law enforcement. Officially, Fallis was charged with criminal possession of a firearm or ammunition by a previously convicted felon, according to the United States Attorney’s Office District of North Dakota.

Another reason the state is dropping cases en masse is because of evidence the camps were infiltrated by TigerSwan operatives, who were on a mission to “find, fix, and eliminate” pipeline opposition, according to Nastacio’s lawyers.

“TigerSwan worked closely with law enforcement to infiltrate the camps, produce pro-DAPL propaganda, and aid prosecutions. TigerSwan acted in a supervisory capacity over Leighton Security, Thompson’s employer.”

Aaron Sean Turgeon ‘Prolific the Rapper’ (right) – Facebook page

“As we’re learning that there was some kind of infiltration by either the FBI or TigerSwan, or both, we think it should become an issue in the cases that the state should have to prove that some of those people who were engaging in that kind of activity were law enforcement or infiltrators,” Carter said.

“That’s what is getting debated in a lot of these cases, is presence,” Carter said. “There are entrapment issues. Five or more people must be engaged in a riot. If you have one of those five as law enforcement or as an infiltrator, and the state is alleging that someone is setting fires or throwing stuff, what if one of the people present was an infiltrator, and everyone else at the demonstration was peaceful or sitting in prayer, and you have one person instigating who wasn’t even part of that group?”  

Bennon Nastacio – Facebook page

During standoffs along the frontlines, police also gave contradictory warnings. Activists were told to leave an area immediately, and then given a different order to pick up items or clean up an area before leaving, which resulted in many people becoming trapped, Carter said.

“They would say ‘go,’ and as people were running to their cars, police were tearing them out of their vehicles. It’s incredible the amount of force they were met with.”

Former City Attorney for Valley City, Russell Myhre, who is now practicing law privately at his office in Valley City, is defending four people against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“I have never seen delays like this,” Myhre, who has been practicing law for nearly half a century said. “Even in high profile cases, there was always this contact with prosecution and the court. Here, there appears to be no reason whatsoever, and I don’t know why they’re not dealing with speedy trials.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline controversy reminds Myhre of the Vietnam War era, he said, which polarized the nation instantly until the mid-1970s when the contention simmered and people began to realize that perhaps, the Vietnam War was not one of the nation’s brightest moments.

Red Fawn Fallis – online sources

“I think this Dakota Access Pipeline is tearing North Dakotans apart,” Myhre said. “North Dakota was a god-forgotten outpost in the United States for many years, but they have found out that maybe they have sold their soul to big oil, and maybe, there is a dark side to this, and they’re just now starting to realize this.”

The lack of speedy trials is a legal tactic defendants can consider, he said. “A trial is scheduled within 90 days after demand for a speedy trial. It could be thrown out by the trial court or appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, or it could be brought to federal court for denial of due process and the denial of a right for a speedy trial.”

There is potential that cases could be reopened and appealed, even if found guilty under North Dakota Century Code post-conviction relief laws, Myhre said. The law is a substitute for habeas corpus – after being convicted a defendant can come back in and allege their rights have been violated.

“I think the system is overwhelmed,” Myhre said. “One of the other things is that prosecutors and law enforcement are realizing this is not going the way they wanted it to. Not many are coming forward pleading guilty.”

And law enforcement records are lacking, he said. “Most of these officers did not write up personal reports, which is standard practice. Most of these officers did not write up anything, it was left to one officer in charge of writing things up for everyone.”

Money is another contributing aspect as to why cases are being dropped faster than hot potatoes. The state was denied reimbursement for the $38 million spent during the controversy by the federal government last week. Days later, Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, offered, once again, to pay the bill.

To compound the issues a federal judge ruled on July 16 that permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River less than one mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation violated the tribe’s fishing rights, hunting rights, and environmental rights.

“There’s something funky going on in the background,” Myhre said. “And I just don’t know what it is. A lot of it may have to do with TigerSwan and the manipulation of the media. In North Dakota, unless you were a Native American or an extreme liberal, many people were anti protest.

“We’re living in strange times.”

Since the last Standing Rock camp was cleared in February, TigerSwan kept roving teams active in North Dakota until earlier this month. The security company left North Dakota last week, Energy Transfer Partners personnel reported. The security company hasn’t left the oil business, however, and has set up shops along the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, which runs through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Mariner East is also owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

In November 2016, TigerSwan LLC obtained business licenses for the three states, according to state registration records, but its private security license is under review in Louisiana by the Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners. The Louisiana Secretary of State reports TigerSwan, LLC was established in Lafayette on June 1, 2017.

“It is worth exposing in a court of public opinion, this is who law enforcement is working with, and this is exactly who TigerSwan is, and do you want these cultural things perpetuated domestically?” Carter said. “They [TigerSwan] manufactured some of these instances, they didn’t like the surveillance. They just didn’t want to be under surveillance.”

Second DAPL whistleblower to testify

Former guard on life along the pipeline and why he is speaking out

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– When Kyle Thompson decided to speak out against tactics used along the Dakota Access Pipeline, it wasn’t because of a change of heart.

“I’ve always tried to look out for the best interests of everyone,” said Thompson, the former program manager for Leighton Security Services, Inc. “Just because I did security for the pipeline, that doesn’t mean that I necessarily wanted the pipeline in the ground. I didn’t really have a view on the pipeline.”

He waited half a year to speak out because he didn’t want his name dragged through the mud any more than it has been in recent months.

“I figured it’s time now, and everyone’s court cases are coming up soon,” Thompson said. “Coming out now didn’t really give people a chance to discredit my side of things. I waited so long so that people couldn’t talk more shit about me. I knew once I came out, there were people on water protector side that hate me, and I get it. There’s a lot of people that got charged that were just trying to help each other out.”

Thompson, 30, took his first step on July 12 during a live feed with Myron Dewey, owner of Digital Smoke Signals, promising information pertaining to security work along the Dakota Access Pipeline. Less than a week after Thompson went live, the state dropped charges against Brennon Nastacio, the Pueblo Native American who was arrested for terrorizing after disarming Thompson while the security employee was en route to Standing Rock’s main camps.

Kyle Thompson (right) – Facebook page

Thompson was on his way to photograph burning trucks, he said, property he was charged to protect, when he was run off the road by another vehicle. He fled, AR-15 in hand, toward a nearby pond where Nastacio and two others approached him.

“It was just me out there, I was by myself,” Thompson said. “He did go overboard a little bit, he had his knife out, and I had my gun on him, I had it out because all these people were coming down on me. I didn’t know what to do, I guess, I did what I had to do to keep everyone back then and there. I’m not necessarily doing this for him personally, I’m just doing it because I don’t believe he should have a felony charge for what he did.

“In his mind he was looking out for the best interest of the people. I’m glad his charges got dropped.”

The decision to speak out was not taken lightly, he said.

“I hate to say I’m coming out, I’m not out for everyone,” Thompson said. “There were some protesters that were aggressive, antagonistic; there were people on both sides doing it. Tensions were high. There are two sides to it: Pro-DAPL and No-DAPL. And if you’re going to be out there, people expect you to be on one side or the other.”

A friend introduced Thompson to the security company in August 2016, and when he began working, TigerSwan was already firmly in command of all security companies involved. TigerSwan operatives led the daily briefings, which were attended by law enforcement, and coordinated intelligence reports.

Soon after he began working for Leighton Security Services, Thompson met Kourtni Dockter, who became a security employee with EH Investigations, and became the first former security worker to blow the whistle on TigerSwan’s illegal activity on June 8.

As a former veteran, serving three tours in the Middle East, Thompson received an honorable discharge in 2013 as a sergeant. He’s also a recipient of the Purple Heart, and he never expected to come back home safely.

“I made it my personal mission to ensure that everyone made it home before I did,” Thompson said. “However, that wasn’t always the case. I always felt I was well prepared, mentally and physically, to do whatever needed to be done to look out for everyone around me.

“The only thing that was difficult for me was having to witness the families of those who never made it back.”

Once, he had to return a friend’s wedding band to family, his friend’s wife, after he was taken off life support in Germany, he said.

Native Americans call Thompson War Eagle, for being a veteran and a warrior. While working security, coworkers called him “DAPL Apple,” for being part Lakota Sioux, or “red on the outside and white on the inside,” he said.

Thompson and Dockter broke up shortly after he was arrested on domestic abuse and drug paraphernalia charges last April. He also quit his job with Leighton Security Services the same month. For approximately three more months, Thompson and Dockter remained apart, but recently patched their relationship, admitting drugs had no more room in their relationship.

“She does mean the world to me,” Thompson said. “I’d do anything for her.”

The couple isn’t in hiding any longer, but Thompson is taking extra precautions to make sure they’re safe.

“Hopefully more of these charges will get dropped,” Thompson said. “So it will prove that I’m not out for anyone. I’m not trying to go against security or law enforcement, I’m not trying to go against the protectors, I’m just trying to do the right thing for the right people.”

While working along the pipeline route, Thompson’s main goal, just as it was during tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, was to look out for everyone involved, he said. “My personal mission was to look out for people in general. I wasn’t really scared. I was more worried about our guys getting surrounded, or overtaken by protesters. I didn’t know the reality of the threat out there, I was more worried about the guys under me.”

Thompson had at least two-dozen employees he oversaw, he said. Never once did he train with TigerSwan or the North Dakota National Guard. He went into the camps twice – more from curiosity than for any kind of mission, he said.

His daily routine included driving between construction sites, relaying information, scheduling, and ensuring construction workers were brought to safety, he said.

“I would do whatever I could to get the workers out,” Thompson said. “They knew where my heart was at.”

Soon after the October 27 incident with Nastacio, Thompson was involved in an argument with a TigerSwan operative, he said.

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

“They talked down on our company,” he said. “We were just tasked to watch out for construction workers and equipment, but it kept getting under my skin and our guys were actually doing more reporting than anyone else at the time. I was always on top of it, we weren’t out there for any other reason.”

During a morning meeting he decided he’d had enough.

“One day it just got to me, and I said f*ck it, I don’t need this and walked out. We didn’t work for the other security elements. We didn’t work for DAPL directly, even from the beginning the owners of the company and my boss told me not to get affiliated too much with other security elements.

“They didn’t want to get tied up with anything illegal or have any more headaches.”

Leighton Security Services is an active private security company based out of Texas. Kevin Mayberry, the owner and president, feels confident his company left as good an impression as possible on locals and Standing Rock leadership and activists. Leighton Security Services was subcontracted to EH Investigations and two other companies along the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Kyle is a good dude,” Mayberry said. “We’ve done a lot for Kyle and his family, and he did do a good job while he was out there, and then he went south a little bit. He’ll get his life straightened out.”

Mayberry’s company steered clear of the drama while in North Dakota, he said. “We told our people to stay away from that crap. There was a lot of stuff up there that happened that’s 100 percent true,” Mayberry said. “And there’s a lot of stuff that went on up there that is 100 percent false. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly who did what, but I was made aware of different situations and we put two and two together and figured out who it was.”

Two trucks burned at Backwater Bridge – photo by C.S. Hagen

He once received an anonymous email from someone claiming to be a TigerSwan employee who leaked that the international security company was actively trying to sabotage other security companies in the area and shift blame, Mayberry said.

“TigerSwan didn’t have a license, and everyone they used didn’t have a license and we wondered for months how they were even operating up there,” Mayberry said. “They had hundreds of guys who were carrying weapons and all types of military equipment that wasn’t even licensed to carry in that state. Energy Transfer didn’t know half the crap that was going on.

“TigerSwan was out there running crazy.”

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014, worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov.

TigerSwan, its founder James Reese, and EH Investigations currently face civil lawsuits filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, a governor-appointed committee that licenses and regulates private security industries in North Dakota.

When called to a site that included activists, Mayberry said that Standing Rock leaders and activists showed him and his company respect.

“We would go out there and they wouldn’t do anything to us, we were just doing our job,” he said. “But if any other security company went out there, we would have to like break it up. They respected us and we respected them.”

When asked about illegal tactics used by TigerSwan or other security companies, Thompson said he needed to wait to testify in court. Intelligence reports were an integral component of daily security briefings he attended.

“TigerSwan controlled the way the meetings went, it was common knowledge that they were running the show,” Thompson said.

He has only one regret, he said. “I wish I could go back to October 27 and not drive up to take that picture. It’s almost embarrassing because people think I was doing so much more.”

Despite working odd jobs since working security for DAPL, Thompson isn’t uncertain about his future. He is quietly confident, answering questions briefly but succinctly.

“My plans for the future will continue to be to help others in need,” Thompson said. “I’ll do whatever I can in my power to achieve that goal.”

IT specialists investigate cyber warfare crimes at Standing Rock

State worked with TigerSwan to ensure “battle rhythm,” second DAPL security worker whistleblower steps forward 

 By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – The lawsuit against TigerSwan for illegally working security in North Dakota is a civil case, but proof now exists that cyber warfare tactics were used against activists at the Standing Rock camps, according to IT analysts. One question remains: who was responsible for launching the attacks?

Hundreds of mobile phones and vehicles were damaged as batteries were suddenly drained of power, or were “fried,” during warm and cold weather. Incidents of random hot spots for Internet reception with alternating GPS locations, hacked laptops and cellphones, are too many to count. Bugs or listening devices were planted in meeting rooms at the nearby Prairie Knights Casino & Resort. Fiber cable boxes were broken into. Additionally, cars en route to and from Oceti Sakowin broke down without warning, and have not been the same since.

Morton County Sheriff’s Department denied that their deputies used cyber weaponry, but leased a mobile cellular tower from Verizon to boost reception. The Office of the Governor of the State of North Dakota claims it was unaware that TigerSwan was operating illegally, and yet was in the loop, keeping the “battle rhythm” alive. The National Guard is considered a “law enforcement multiplier” under emergency situations, and police are not in the business of digital disruption, preferring to operate in the legal gray zone of electronic intelligence gathering. Possible suspects that remain include the federal government and TigerSwan, the North Carolina security firm whose services were paid by Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC.

Headed by former Delta Force officer James Reese, both Reese and TigerSwan face a civil lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board for illegally working in the state despite repeated warnings. 

The cyber and cellular attacks at Standing Rock on activists ranged from malware, IMSI catchers, to electromagnetic field devices, IT analysts report. Malware typically comes as viruses through emails, links, or attachments and acts with stealth, not programed to alert the owner. IMSI Catchers – sometimes known by the brand Stingrays – act as fake cellular towers, forcing GSM phones to connect and then suck in data. The electromagnetic field device is a cyber weapon used in the Middle East to block cellular phones sending data to Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs. It is a short burst of electromagnetic energy meant to disrupt or damage nearly any equipment with a microchip.

Semi-mobile Stingray rogue field intercept cell tower antenna array with collection/detection gear powered by a grid utility pole with a backup battery, photographed by drone near to where Standing Rock Chairman was arrested – photo by Myron Dewey

Only government entities can authorize a cyber or cellular attack. 

Plucked from the war-torn fields of Afghanistan and Iraq, TigerSwan employees are well trained in military tactics, and the company not only advertises its military-grade data and human intelligence capabilities on its website, it has a history of partnering with hi-tech companies, such as its 2012 partnership with Saffron Technology. 

Saffron Technology is a small data analytics company that uses technology to mimic the human brain’s capability to connect people, places, and things, at lightning speed, according to the company’s website. Saffron Technology’s products were originally used in Iraq to predict where bombs were located, according to Reuters, but now it offers its services to corporations such as Boeing Co., to forecast weather, and to TigerSwan. 

While IT technicians continue the hunt for additional proof of cyber weaponry used at the Standing Rock camps, the Water Protector Legal Collective, which operates in partnership with the National Lawyers Guild in defending many activists, reports Kourtni Dockter, a former DAPL security employee, is not the only whistleblower.

On Tuesday night, Kyle Thompson, the former project manager for Leighton Security Security Services, came forward live on Digital Smoke Signals with owner Myron Dewey, and began to tell his side of the Dakota Access Pipeline story, making hints that more is to come. Thompson’s burgeoning testimony comes after his former girlfriend and Leighton security employee, Dockter, blew the whistle on TigerSwan activities.

Kyle Thompson during interview on Digital Smoke Signals

“We are starting to see some of the security workers defect,” Water Protector Legal Collective staff attorney Andrea Carter said. “When you look at Kyle’s interview yesterday, i think he feels very troubled about what happened, and a part of him really wants to connect to the camps.” 

Thompson plans on sharing more information about his experience working security along the Dakota Access Pipeline, but “not yet,” he said. 

“I feel like I can help a lot of people with me coming out with my truth, which could benefit the people facing charges,” Thompson said during the recorded interview. 

“The healing has started,” Dewey said. “And it’s not easy.” 

The casualties

As the Dodge Ram’s engine sputtered, Alex Glover-Herzog wasn’t thinking of the military-Internet complex or of TigerSwan, or of the DAPL helicopter that swooped low along the Missouri River’s banks. 

Late November outside of Standing Rock, Glover-Herzog was trying to stay warm. His 4×4’s engine was purring normally, pouring much-needed heat from the vents before the engine coughed, then suddenly died. 

“It was way too cold to think about anything else at that moment,” Glover-Herzog said. “The only thing I can say is that my truck died twice for no reason while at Oceti.” 

Hundreds of others camped outside of Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy experienced the same phenomena, Myron Dewey, owner of Digital Smoke Signals, said. It resembled a futuristic nightmare straight from the movie “Matrix,” executive director for Geeks Without Bounds, Lisha Sterling, said. She spent months at the camps training people and helping improve communication technology. Geeks Without Bounds is a Washington-based humanitarian organization that works toward improving communication and technology. 

Two automobiles that suddenly lost battery power at Standing Rock camps – photo provided by Myron Dewey

“When the squids were coming at them.” Sterling said about the comparison of the “Matrix” scene and what happened at the Standing Rock camps. “They powered down their machine and did an EM pulse, which fries electronics… and the squids coming at them.” 

Cooper Quentin, the staff technologist on the cyber team with Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization defending liberties in the digital world, spent a few days at the Standing Rock camps.

“While I was there I was looking for evidence of Stingrays, and I did not find any evidence,” Quentin said. “But they could have been using them before I got there.”

He looked at computers, mobile phones, but said he found nothing conclusive.

“There is definitely some weird stuff, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence, but it doesn’t have to be malware. Extreme temperatures can do weird things to phone batteries. There were definitely a lot of weird things going on at the camps, but none of that is exclusive.”

Quentin is still interested in investigating further, however, but the case needs a digital forensics expert, which is costly.

“Even if we do find malware that looked like spyware, and we were able to prove from time stamps that they got it while they were at Standing Rock, we would still need to prove where it came from. If the server is owned by law enforcement or TigerSwan, then you have solid attribution. If that’s not the case then it becomes much harder to figure out who to blame.

“But my opinion is not shared by some of the other experts. If people have solid evidence I would happily continue to investigate.”

Colorado resident Christina Arreguin’s first phone at Standing Rock became little better than a paperweight in mid-October, she said. She had 80 percent battery left when it got hit, but even after trying three separate chargers, her phone was never able to call or text again. She learned to adapt quickly; stowed the battery in one pocket, and her new phone in the other when she went to the frontlines.

The attacks weren’t isolated to the frontlines. Cars broke down when a helicopter flew by, she noticed. 

“The sound from the planes so much became like part of the background, just a familiar noise, kinda like how you get used to the beep from a smoke detector after a while,” Arreguin said. “I do remember a helicopter though, when the Blazer broke down it looked different than the other ones.” 

The omnipresent white helicopter over Standing Rock camps – photo provided by Myron Dewey

“When the Cessna flew by, that’s when cellphones got zapped,” Lisa Ling, also with Geeks Without Bounds, said. Ling is a former Air Force technical sergeant who worked in America’s armed drone program in what is known as a Distributed Ground System, a secret networked killing operation capable of sucking up personal data to be able to track and shoot people anywhere, and at any time. Ling turned whistleblower in 2014, and her testimony was featured in the 2016 documentary film National Bird

On Ling’s first trip to the Standing Rock camps, Internet connection was difficult. 

“When we first got there the only place you could get any connectivity was Facebook Hill,” Ling said. “If you left Facebook Hill there was no connectivity.” On her second trip, she said random places in the camps had connectivity. She knocked on tent and tipi doors asking people if they had boosters. No one had any. 

“My phone actually got zapped a number of times by some sort of EMP,” Ling said. “These cellular disruptors, as we call them, can do physical damage to the phone.” Such an attack is not legal for a private company to issue, and Ling said it should not be legal for law enforcement to utilize without warrants. 

FOIA requests to the Office of the Governor of North Dakota, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to the North Dakota National Guard, so far, have revealed that no warrants were issued for the use of cyber weapons outside of Standing Rock.

Such attacks are an invasion of privacy, a right protected by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.”

Fiber optic box broken into near Standing Rock – photo provided by Lisa Ling

“I paid close attention to what things flying above us when certain things happened,” Ling said. “And there was a small white plane, and that’s the thing that flew when our phones got zapped. So if you managed to turn your phone off when that thing came by, then your phone wouldn’t get zapped. When that Cessna was up, cellphones got zapped, and it wasn’t because of the cold, as they’re trying to say, it happened before the winter as well.” 

Ling brought radios to the camps to help with communication and safety during sub-zero temperatures, she said, but TigerSwan operatives discovered their frequencies and harassed them. Internet cables were cut inside the dome by infiltrators, she said. 

“They were intentionally interrupting that,” Ling said, adding that during the freezing winter months such interruptions could have cost lives. 

The automobile breakdowns coincided with either the private Cessna that circled the camps, or with helicopters. 

“I documented, I have proof,” Dewey said. Proof was easy to obtain because of the “digital divide” separating Indian country and the rest of the modernized world. He spotted and photographed a Stingray device near Highway 1806 where Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II was arrested. 

Myron Dewey with drone, all charges against him dropped earlier this week – Facebook page

The device has been identified by multiple sources as a semi-mobile Stingray rogue field intercept cell tower antenna array with collection and detection gear powered by a grid utility pole with a battery backup.

“It was easy to identify cyber warfare out there, because we already were in a digital divide,” Dewey said. Dewey is also a filmmaker, uses drones, and lost at least three to gunfire and electromagnetic field devices, he said. Charges against Dewey were dropped this week, and he is waiting the return of one of his drones in Mandan. 

“Indian country has been in a digital divide since America has had access to technology.” 

Dewey claims that TigerSwan operatives on snowmobiles chased him while he was driving, and he has video to prove the harassment. One of his drones was hit at Treaty Camp, which was taken over by law enforcement on October 27, 2016.

“The drones were hit several different ways, so I sent one drone up and another to film it and see what happened,” Dewey said. “It seemed like an EMP charge, but it was more like a wave, and it dropped into the water.”

His mobile phone also got hacked, Dewey said. “It started recording my voice right in front of me and another guy, and then sent to text. I was really paranoid a lot of the times, but I had people to protect me some times.”

In addition to the cyber attacks, TigerSwan operatives, or security personnel working under the TigerSwan umbrella, boarded vehicles like pirates to a ship, he said, smashed out windows, stole radios to report misleading information, and curse.

“‘We’re going to rape your women and have half-breed babies,’” Dewey said the security operatives would yell over frequencies activists used. The threats were difficult to ignore as they brought on old fears from native oral stories and traditions handed down for generations.

“If the military catches you, stuff your insides with dirt in the hopes that they kill you,” Dewey said. “We thought the police were there to keep the peace, but it was like Custer who wanted the gold. History repeating itself, the second wave of Custer’s cavalry, and they felt the need to win.”

Dewey drives a Yukon Hybrid, and had just installed a new battery when it too was fried at the Standing Rock camps. The first electromagnetic pulse hit the camps in August, Dewey said. “Several hoods were up, and I went over and asked them what happened and they said they’re batteries were dead as well.” 

The cyber field of battle sits in a legal gray zone, but inside the United States only a government entity has the authority to utilize use cyber weapons. Private companies, even if they are attacked first, cannot legally reciprocate on their own volition.

“So my educated guess is that the IMSI Catchers were owned and authorized by either or both the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the National Guard, but the chances are similarly high that they would not have had the experience to manage them, so that is where TigerSwan comes in,” Sterling said.

“It is also possible that nobody really cared, and that they were owned by TigerSwan themselves.”

Outside of the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and a handful of other government agencies, only criminal organizations and massive corporations have the funds to purchase and store high-end disruptive cyber weapons. A zero-day vulnerability exploit targeting Apple products can cost as much as $500,000.

IMSI Catchers used to be difficult to obtain, but now can be bought online for under $2,000 on Alibaba, or from dozens of companies online some of whom specify their products are for law enforcement use only.

“What we got now is the lull between battles,” Sterling said. “It will more likely be seen in the big cities soon, Standing Rock Part Two, in terms of the cyber warfare, the strong-armed tactics, and not just militarized police, but the militarized contractors as well.”

North Dakota National Guard vehicles at Standing Rock camps – photo provided by Myron Dewey

The gray zone

Cyber weapons are not lethal in the sense of traditional weapons, but can also be dangerous and disruptive far beyond an intended target, Shane Harris, the author of the 2014 book “@ War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex,” wrote. Harris is a senior correspondent at the Daily Beast and covers national security, intelligence, and cyber security. 

Cyber warfare began in the 1990s. Early pioneers, or cyber warriors, blazed a complicated legal trail into the 2000s until 2013, when former President Barack Obama issued executive order PDD-20, effectively paving the way for more streamlined cyber defense and offense. 

Black helicopter flying over the Standing Rock camps – photo provided by Myron Dewey

The president must order all cyber strikes internationally; no private companies are authorized for digital, cellular, or cyber offensive actions. Despite a contentious relationship between government agencies and private companies, “there’s an alliance forming between government and business in cyberspace,” Harris wrote. 

“It’s born of a mutual understanding that US national security and economic well-being are fundamentally threatened by rampant cyber espionage and potential attacks on vital infrastructure,” Harris wrote. 

Oil pipelines are included under the infrastructure category by the Department of Homeland Security, as are dams, chemicals, emergency services, communications, critical manufacturing, healthcare, water and wastewater, transportation, information technology, and government facilities, along with other sectors of economy. 

Approximately 85 percent of the computer networks in the United States are owned and operated by private groups and individuals, and any one of the telecom companies, the tech titans, the financial institutions, the defense contractors, could be the weak link against cyber attacks. 

“The government has decided that protecting cyberspace is a top national priority,” Harris wrote. “But the companies have a voice in how that job gets done. That’s the alliance at the heart of the military-Internet complex.” 

Masked TigerSwan employee – photo provided by Myron Dewey

The Homeland Security Presidential Directive, or HSPD-7, signed by former president George W. Bush on December 17, 2003, seeks to protect infrastructure from “terrorist attacks.”

During the months TigerSwan was illegally involved as the chief security organizer for Energy Transfer Partners’s oil interests, the security company called activists camped against the Dakota Access Pipeline terrorists, even jihadists.

“Terrorists seek to destroy, incapacitate, or exploit critical infrastructure and key resources across the United States to threaten national security, cause mass casualties, weaken our economy, and damage public morale and confidence,” HSPD-7 reports. 

“While it is not possible to protect or eliminate the vulnerability of all critical infrastructure and key resources throughout the country, strategic improvements in security can make it more difficult for attacks to succeed and can lessen the impact of attacks that may occur. In addition to strategic security enhancements, tactical security improvements can be rapidly implemented to deter, mitigate, or neutralize potential attacks.” 

The lines between spies, saboteurs, or intelligence gathering and military operations are blurred. Intelligence gathering techniques fall into a legal gray area and while the tactic may not be illegal for a federal or police agency to conduct on US citizens, the evidence obtained by such means may still not be allowed in a court of law. 

Daily, TigerSwan coordinated and provided intelligence to Energy Transfer Partners and others. TigerSwan placed operatives in the law enforcement joint operations center, and were responsible for in-depth analyses of cyber, workforce, facility, electronic, and environmental security threats, according to the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board.

Emails shared between Morton County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Rob Keller and Office of the Governor of North Dakota Communications Director Mike Nowatzki, the governor’s office was knowledgeable of TigerSwan’s activity, but reported they did not know the security company was working illegally.

“I wanted to give you a heads up on this Energy Transfer and TigerSwan meeting with Kyle [Kirchmeier],” Keller wrote to Nowatzki on January 16. “I don’t know the intent and the PIOs will not be there.” 

“If it is a closed session, it’s fine,…” Nowatzki wrote back. “Our JIC PIO and Unified Command meet from 0830 to 1000 (CT) every Tuesday so that battle rhythm should be protected with our state team.” 

Battle rhythm is a military term, meant to describe the maintenance of synchronized activity and process among distributed “warfighters,” according to the Defense Technical Information Center.

“I was deployed to the Middle East, and the term was used there,” Ling said. “I worked in the drone program, and the term was there. I worked in the National Guard and the term was used there, but I have never heard the term battle rhythm used in a civilian setting. It would imply that there is an enemy.”

– This story is part of the ongoing investigation into government and TigerSwan’s actions during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. 

DAPL Whistleblower In Hiding After Receiving Threats, ND Board files civil action against TigerSwan

North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board cites TigerSwan for illegal activity, FOIA requests pending without response from ND governor’s office

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – Former DAPL security employee turned whistleblower, Kourtni Dockter, is in hiding. Threats from “concerned citizens” have been made against her; a black truck with no license plates is surveilling her parents’ house.

“They have threatened me, claiming that I’m a junkie drug addict and they want to come beat my ass,” Dockter said. “When we get evidence of that, that could be considered tampering with a federal witness.” 

Despite her checkered past and brushes with the law, she is not reneging her stance, and is prepared to testify in court to what she calls illegal actions of TigerSwan and other security companies involved in protecting the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

Kourtni Dockter – Facebook page

Speaking out against the tactics used on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporting activists — known as water protectors — was not a decision Dockter made overnight. The more than 20,000 activists and supporters of the anti-DAPL movement at the camps were called terrorists by state politicians, and ideological jihadists with a “strong religious component” by TigerSwan leadership.

“They talked about jihad all the time,” Dockter said. “Every day I heard it, from the security workers to the DAPL actual employees. They told everyone to be armed. Basically, TigerSwan was trying to portray this as, ‘You guys need to fear for your lives.’”

The terms were indoctrinated into security personnel meetings, disseminated to mainstream media disguised deliberately as news, when at least part of the violence along the pipeline in 2016 and early 2017 was amplified and created by the security companies, most importantly TigerSwan, according to leaked and requested documents first published by The Intercept

TigerSwan, a private security company with a long history in Afghanistan, also stated on February 27, 2017 that since the NoDAPL movement followed jihadist insurgency models, expect a “post-insurgency model after its collapse.” 

Exposing the agenda behind the 1,172-mile-long, $3.8 billion pipeline financed by Energy Transfer Partners and 17 financial institutions such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas of France, was an idea she and former boyfriend, Kyle Thompson, had been planning for months, she said. 

“This has nothing to do with me being an angry girlfriend,” Dockter, 22, said. “I know that my criminal record and history will be brought up, but I am willing to stand tall. I am expecting everything. I’m about to be put into the line of fire, but I know, in my heart, it is the right thing to do.”

Posing for a picture at a barricade – that was not set on fire by activists, according to activists – online srouces

The months John Porter, listed as TigerSwan’s chief security officer for Energy Transfer Partners, were by far, the most violent, Dockter said.

“There was a huge change,” Dockter said about when TigerSwan was actively present. “It went from military-style operations basically back to simple security work.”

Harsh winter weather, President Donald Trump’s executive order allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to get back on track, and the successful siege tactics used against Standing Rock camps, killed much of the activist spirit, former security worker at Oceti Sakowin, Mike Fasig, said.

“We were pretty well boxed in,” Fasig said. “Things calmed down because we never could get past anything. There were five-ton military trucks and barricades that boxed us in. There wasn’t really anything we could do.” 

“It was insane,” Dockter said. “This was their constitutional right, and they’re getting their lives threatened. They tried to justify the reasons they would have to use deadly force, and there were no instances of water protectors committing violent acts on police. 

Some of the acts reported by law enforcement were committed by security company infiltrators disguised as activists, Dockter said. The charge is one long discussed at the Standing Rock camps, but one for which there was little proof until Dockter came forward with information. “They did send their infiltrators in to disguise themselves, and they did light equipment on fire. John Porter headed all those operations.” 

Her family supports her, she said. Her father, especially, is undaunted. She described herself as a diehard liberal, who was against the pipeline to begin with, but after meeting Thompson at a local McDonalds, it was love at first sight. 

“He opened up to me the first night,” Dockter said. The two met on Facebook, and she believes Thompson originally wanted to meet her for information as she had friends involved in the Standing Rock camps. “We hit it off. We told each other everything that first night. And after, we never left each other’s side.” 

Thompson was nicknamed the “DAPL Apple” — as he is part Native American, and was “red on the outside, white on the inside,” Dockter said. A veteran, and recipient of a Purple Heart, Thompson suffers from what she believes is PTSD after two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. Thompson slowly pulled her into working for North Dakota-based EH Investigations and Security, LLC. Initially, he wanted to become involved with security work because he wanted to protect everyone involved, Dockter said. 

“At first I was very hesitant, but the pay was good,” Dockter said. “I’m not some DAPL infiltrator here. I feel like I sold out for a guy that I loved. I put him above everything and threw away my beliefs.” 

Attempts were made to contact Thompson, but he refused to comment. 

Text from EH Investigations to Kourtni Dockter – provided by Kourtni Dockter

In January, Dockter began working for EH Investigations, which was subcontracted by Leighton Security Services as the Texas-based company was not authorized to work in North Dakota. She was paid $18 an hour, sometimes working 36-hour shifts, she said. She became aware of daily closed meetings known as “The Talk,” where TigerSwan personnel, led by Porter, directed and coordinated security measures and infiltration tactics, reinforcing the notion that the activists were terrorist-like jihadists. 

“They acted above law enforcement for sure,” Dockter said. “They directed law enforcement, and that is where they talked about classified stuff. Sometimes I would sit outside the door and there are a couple things I overheard. 

Dockter also described TigerSwan media cells using high-tech software to discover locations and intelligence in private social media pages, Dockter said. TigerSwan documents also show that security personnel relied heavily on social media postings for information.

Eventually, Dockter was fired after EH Investigations personnel discovered her past with drugs and forgery. 

“Because of my criminal record they could not have me out there,” she said. “I was already out there for about a month before they found out.” She is unfazed by those who say she is not a credible witness. “It doesn’t bother me, because what I am saying will be backed up with evidence.”

Months before Thompson’s arrest on domestic abuse and drug paraphernalia charges in April, the young couple was planning on quitting drugs and blowing the whistle on TigerSwan, she said. The activities she saw, the plans she heard while with Thompson or working in security, has been eating at her conscience. 

The initial stages of building the barricade at Backwater Bridge – photo by C.S. Hagen

TigerSwan’s claws sunk deep
The morning after law enforcement cleared the “Treaty Camp” on October 27, 2016, hundreds of activists defending Native American treaty rights, water rights, and land rights, lined up north of three smoldering vehicles. Fifty yards away, construction trucks set the first cement blocks in a line, forming the second barricade on Highway 1806. 

Weeks earlier and under emergency orders issued by former Governor Jack Dalrymple, the North Dakota National Guard manned the first barricade, more of a checkpoint for passing cars. 

Tensions brewed at the frontline that day. Police or security personnel taunted activists through a megaphone, teasing them about being cowards behind masks. At their line sat military Humvees, a tan armored vehicle equipped with a sound cannon. Activists brandished plywood shields, and refused to budge. Most activists shouted peaceful messages; one man hurled insults at the police. 

After police issued a final warning, law enforcement from five states decked out in sheriff deputy uniforms, riot gear, and armed with mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets, zip ties and clubs, some with live ammunition, formed a Roman-style phalanx and marched down the highway toward Backwater Bridge. Activists smudged each other with burning sweetgrass and sage. One woman sat amidst the crowd praying, crying so hard her shoulders shook. Two women hugged each other tightly as the marching police neared. 

The day was saved by one man with snowy-white hair, smoking a pipe, and wearing a jogging suit, Miles Allard, an elder from Standing Rock. After negotiations, both sides backed down, but the near-altercation was a sign of bigger events to come. 

Standing Rock elder Miles Davis approaching the police line – photo by C.S. Hagen

TigerSwan, straight from the war-torn fields in Afghanistan, was in town. One of the first things the mercenary-for-hire company did was gather all the security companies and put them under a “unified command structure,” according to a September 7, 2016 TigerSwan overview report. 

TigerSwan operatives called security workers from Silverton International unprofessional and unarmed. Other security companies involved included: Thompson-Gray LLC, Knightsbridge Risk Management,10 Code Security, established in Bismarck in 2010, and RGT Security, LLC, registered in Plano, Texas in 2016, Iowa’s Per Mar Security Services, SRC, Inc. in New York, and veteran-owned OnPoint Security Group LLC, from Iowa.

Not surprisingly, TigerSwan took the “fusion lead.” Now, the mercenary-for-hire company and its founder, James Patrick Reese, face a civil action lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board on June 12, 2017. 

The phalanx of law enforcement coming for activists on Backwater Bridge – photo by C.S. Hagen

“The Board has taken an administrative complaint which it has brought against EH and its principal, and that is pending,” Monte Rogneby, attorney for Vogel Law Firm and the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, said. 

“The board is in the process of a civil action against TigerSwan, and that I believe is out for service. The board does have civil authority to initiate either administrative actions or civil actions under the Century Code.”

A security company providing illegal security services in North Dakota is a Class B misdemeanor, Rogneby said. Class B misdemeanors can carry a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and $2,000 in fines, according to the North Dakota Century Code. The board’s investigation is ongoing. 

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov. 

The North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board is a governor-appointed committee that licenses and regulates private security industries, according to its website. 

EH Investigations civil complaint
According to the civil complaint filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, Jeremie Meisel is listed as the responsible license holder for EH Investigations and Security, LLC, a licensed security agency in North Dakota. In August, 2016, Meisel and EH Investigations were contacted by Leighton Security Services, Inc. to assist with security along the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

“Leighton is not licensed or registered to provide private security within the State of North Dakota,” the civil complaint stated. “Meisel and EH Investigations conspired with Leighton to assist Leighton in hiring and deploying within the State of North Dakota unlicensed or unregistered individuals to provide private investigative services in violation of North Dakota law.”

In the fall of 2016, Meisel relinquished his responsibility to Leighton in violation of North Dakota law, according to the civil complaint. The civil complaint further mentioned some of EH Investigations employees: Richard Anderson, Jason Wentz, Chris Anderson, Eizabeth Marlow, Merry Jenson, and Kimberly Stuart. None were registered in North Dakota to provide security services at the times of their hiring.  

The North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board further requested a hearing to revoke the license and registration of Meisel and EH Investigations, or take lawful disciplinary action against them. 

Calls were made and messages were left to EH Investigations personnel for comment, but no replies were made at press time. 

Screenshot of the civil action lawsuit against TigerSwan

TigerSwan civil action 
The civil action lawsuit against TigerSwan revealed the mercenary-for-hire company had a methodical and blatant disregard for North Dakota laws. 

Energy Transfer Partners hired TigerSwan in September 2016, the civil action lawsuit reported. 

TigerSwan’s mission: conduct static and mobile security operations in support of the pipeline construction throughout North Dakota. The mercenary-for-hire company provided around-the-clock protection for DAPL, enlisting an “all elements are engaged to provide security support to DAPL” methodology as its execution model, according to TigerSwan organizational paperwork.  

Protect the DAPL contractors, protect DAPL machinery, protect DAPL material, protect DAPL reputation, was TigerSwan’s rallying cry, according to TigerSwan operational reports.  

On or before September 23, 2016, the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board notified TigerSwan with a letter that it was illegally providing security services in North Dakota. 

TigerSwan’s response: “TigerSwan is not conducting ‘private security services’ in North Dakota.” 

On October 5, 2016, North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board sent TigerSwan the guidelines for licensure in the state, and on November 16, 2016, TigerSwan submitted its application on behalf of Reese, but its application was denied one month later. 

TigerSwan was denied a license because it failed to provide positive criminal history for one or more qualifying offenses, it did not disclose adjudications of guilt, and it failed to provide sufficient information to the Board “to determine whether a reported offense or adjudication has a direct bearing on Reese’s fitness to serve the public.” 

After an attempted review, TigerSwan’s license application was rejected again on January 10, 2017, because the company failed to respond to the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board’s request for the company’s activities in North Dakota prior to its application for licensure. 

TigerSwan’s mercenaries, armed with semiautomatic rifles and sidearms, continued security services before, during, and after its license application was rejected, according to the lawsuit. The company also utilized international anti-terrorist strategies and tactics against NoDAPL activists. 

“TigerSwan provides ‘safety and security’ services, utilizing claimed trademarked methodologies (F3EAR and NIFE) to identify and mitigate risks through the corporate operating environment,” the civil action lawsuit states. “These services include providing in-depth analyses of cyber, workforce, facility, electronic, and environmental security threats.”

F3EAR®Find, Fix, Finalize, Exploit, Analyze, and Recur – former DELTA FORCE leaders who execute cyber and on-site infiltrations to identify weak spots in digital networks, employee bases, operations, and structural security.

NIFE® — Department of Defense compliant, military-grade data and human intelligence that analyzes networks, individuals, facilities, electronics, and the environment to manage risks associated with information security. 

Daily, TigerSwan coordinated and provided intelligence to Energy Transfer Partners and “others related to the ongoing protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline construction project,” which would include the representatives of more than 1,300 law enforcement officers from five different states who participated in the controversy.  

Intelligence came in the forms of flyover photography, summaries of arrests, activist activity, numbers, alleged criminal actions, and equipment. TigerSwan also provided projections of activist activity including the surveillance of social media accounts, according to the lawsuit.

“TigerSwan provided private security services to Energy Transfer Partners concerning the pipeline, and coordinated with other security providers and local law enforcement in carrying out these activities,” the civil action lawsuit reported. 

TigerSwan maintained the Joint Operations Command Center to coordinate security and intelligence gathering, and organized a Quick Reaction Force to respond to activist activities. It was also the main force behind suspected cybercrime acts on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners upon the hacking group “Anonymous” and other threats against Energy Transfer Partners and the company’s executives. 

TigerSwan operatives took keen interest in Native Americans from Standing Rock, Red Warrior Tribal security, Pine Ridge Sioux, the American Indian Movement, and others from Polynesia and Palestine. 

“The presence of additional Palestinians in the camp, and the movement’s involvement with Islamic individuals is a dynamic that requires further examination,” a September 21, 2016 situational report stated. “Currently there is no information to suggest terrorist type tactics or operations; however, with the current limitation on information flow out of the camp, it cannot be ruled out.” 

Approximately 761 people were arrested by law enforcement from August 2016 until February 2017, and more than $38 million was spent by the state defending Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, which already has sprung two leaks.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “mostly complied” with environmental law when approving the pipeline, but failed to consider some matters important to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Dakota Access Pipeline began shipping oil on June 1. 

On June 7, a Freedom of Information Act request was made to the Governor’s Office of the State of North Dakota pertaining to TigerSwan activities in North Dakota, and a second request was made on June 20. The Governor’s office responded early this week.

Through emails between Morton County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Rob Keller and Office of the Governor Communications Director Mike Nowatzki, the governor’s office was knowledgeable of TigerSwan’s activity.  

“I wanted to give you a heads up on this Energy Transfer and TigerSwan meeting with Kyle [Kirchmeier],” Keller wrote to Nowatzki on January 16. “I don’t know the intent and the PIOs will not be there.”

“If it is a closed session, it’s fine,…” Nowatzki wrote back. “Our JIC PIO and Unified Command meet from 0830 to 1000 (CT) every Tuesday so that battle rhythm should be protected with our state team.”

Former DAPL Security Speaks Out, Damning TigerSwan Tactics 

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL
– Speaking from a nondescript hotel room, a former DAPL security employee revealed secret agendas, illegal activities, and widespread drug use among private security employees hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect the company’s interests along to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. 

Kyle Thompson and Kourtni Dockter – Facebook page

Describing an agenda that included setting company vehicles on fire, stealing equipment, and intentionally riling up protesters, Kourtni Dockter, 22, of Bismarck, exposed that the security firms involved actively attempted to pin illegal activities on activists. 

Dockter contacted Michael Fasig, who worked Oceti Sakowin security during the controversy, and Aubree Peckham, both affiliated with ActivateNow, an independent news network, for the interview. Days before she spoke, she made an announcement. 

“Free bird,” she wrote on her Facebook page on June 5. “Prepare for a major info drop my fellow ex-DAPL workers… I’m about to expose everything that illegally happened during my job working security.”

Appearing slightly nervous, Dockter first said that she was speaking of her own free will, and had not been coerced in any way. “I’m doing this because I want to expose the truth,” she said. 

Dockter is also the former girlfriend of Kyle Thompson, the Thompson-Gray LLC security employee who was disarmed by activists of a AR-15 on October 27, 2016 while reportedly driving his pickup truck at high speeds toward the Oceti Sakowin camps. 

Starting early November 2016, Dockter said she worked with Leighton Security Services, and “never left his [Thompson] side after that.” She would frequently meet at the Mandan Yard where the security firms, TigerSwan Inc., Leighton Security Services, LLC, established in 2011 in Honey Grove, Texas, and 10 Code Security, established in 2010 in Bismarck, frequently met with pipeline executives and law enforcement. 

Leighton Security Services owner Kevin Mayberry, said he has never heard of Dockter, but that if she had worked for his company it would have been indirectly with EH Investigations LLC.

“We subcontracted to them,” Mayberry said. “I got some word about some lady who was saying something about TigerSwan, but we didn’t have anything to do with anything like that what was going on. Our only part up there was watching welding equipment and working in the main yards.” 

“Our company was never mentioned in any type of scandalous way up there,” Mayberry said. “We pretty much kept to the sidelines, and I wouldn’t let my company get involved in the things that were going on up there.”

When asked if he knew about any illegal activity committed by pipeline security personnel, he said that he would need to talk to his company’s legal counsel before divulging any more information. “I got my opinion, but it would all be speculation,” Mayberry said. “My company, me, I would not let our guys get involved because I didn’t think it was right.” 

EH Investigations LLC is listed as a limited liability company involved with private investigations and security, and established on November 5, 2015 in Bismarck, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State. Other media have listed HE Security, Russell Group Security, and SRG Security, along with other security agencies, worked the Dakota Access Pipeline route, and were responsible for equipment safety, drilling operations, and filming operations. 

Dockter said illegal activity was encouraged by security companies, who used agents to infiltrate the camps, and commit crimes that were later pinned on activists. 

“They [security companies] had incentives for people to hurt other people,” Dockter said.” They wanted the protesters to be riled up, they wanted their guns shown, they even sent in people from the other side that would have guns to make it seem that the protesters had guns and they could jump in and act on it.” 

TigerSwan at times authorized deadly force, and looked favorably at employees who incited violence that led to arrests, Dockter said. 

“They did have deadly force authorized, but there were times like the incident with the horse when TigerSwan authorized deadly force and they’re not even supposed to be doing that. They acted above the law.”

She went on to describe a day when Thompson allegedly swerved into the opposite lane into oncoming traffic and intentionally sideswiped youth on horseback. 

The live feed frequently suffered interruption, garbling some of Dockter’s responses. “We’ve been DAPLed,” was a response many watchers joked about, referring to the cyber warfare activists reported they experienced while at the camps outside of Standing Rock. 

Thompson did not have a driver’s license, or a security license, Dockter said. On the day he was arrested by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was snorting methamphetamine on a hill overlooking the camps, she said. 

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

“Once he was up for a week,” Dockter said. He was very high and strung out. When he’s high his voice changes. Kyle was trying to keep it all together, he was the only one who could do it, because he was high on meth. It’s ridiculous that Kyle pulled a gun, but doesn’t get in trouble. It’s crazy some of the things he pulled he gets away with, but the protesters would get arrested, maced right on the spot.”

Thompson has been repeatedly contacted for comment, but offered no reply to the accusations made by his former girlfriend.

Security employees were also overworked, and security firms frequently overcharged their employer, Energy Transfer Partners, Dockter said. 

“We had these positions filled, inserted these fake names on timesheets… to turn in to DAPL,” Dockter said. Out of 12 positions allocated for, only seven people worked security for Leighton Security Services, Dockter said. 

Dockter painted a picture resembling a Wild West show, with security personnel’s disregard for law and order, and a desire to become their employer’s hero of the week. 

“He said he ran into people, he ran into horses, he didn’t care,” Dockter said. “He wanted to. He liked it. He said ‘We didn’t know what they were capable of. We feared for our life.’” 

After the Treaty Camp was cleared on October 27, TigerSwan mercenaries set fire to the five-ton trucks on the bridge, she said.

“TigerSwan sent people out at night to light equipment on fire,” Dockter said. “John Porter was sent to set equipment on fire overnight. He did it solo, he had backup, had some drone coverage, but they set their own equipment on fire.” 

Private security personnel along pipeline route – online sources

Porter was the chief security officer for Energy Transfer Partners, according to documents leaked to media outlet The Intercept. Porter’s LinkedIn profile lists that he was the principal logistics advisor to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Ministry of Defense from 2016, where he was responsible for advising, mentoring, and training for intelligence systems. Energy Transfer Partners is the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, who was responsible for construction of the 1,172-mile-long, $3.78 billion pipeline. 

Thompson also allegedly stole a radio from an elder at the camps, Dockter said, and went inside the camps on multiple occasions. Security personnel used the radio to spy on camp organizer’s radio frequencies. 

On November 21, the night of the standoff on Backwater Bridge, where law enforcement used water cannons, concussion grenades, rubber bullets and other non-lethal means against hundreds of activists in sub-freezing temperatures, security personnel infiltrated the “other side” to provoke, she said. 

“They were saying that protesters were throwing propane tanks,” Dockter said. “What actually happened was that TigerSwan sent people to the other side to start it. That’s why, they provoked it. Lots of money…

“That was definitely a provoked incident. Definitely.”

She referred to the same night that Sophia Wilansky, from New York, nearly had her arm blown off by what activists say was a concussion grenade, and what law enforcement claim was a homemade Coleman propane tank bomb.  

In an unrelated incident, Thompson, 30, was arrested April 18 for simple assault domestic violence, carrying a concealed weapon, and for possession of schedule I, II, and III drug paraphernalia, according to the Burleigh County arrest records. By the following afternoon, the domestic abuse charge was dropped, leaving two Class A misdemeanor charges: carrying a concealed firearm in his vehicle, and possessing drug paraphernalia, namely syringes and spoons, to consume methamphetamine, according to the Burleigh County Clerk of Court.

Dockter’s interview comes partway through a series of stories first revealed by leaked documents given to The Intercept, describing the private security company, TigerSwan Inc., and its relationship to local law enforcement, Energy Transfer Partners, and government agencies. 

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov.

The North Dakota Secretary of State holds one record for TigerSwan, LLC, established in Fargo on November 7, 2016, seven months after the controversy began. The company led a massive misinformation campaign to infiltrate local and national media calling activists “jihadists” with a religious agenda, and worked closely with law enforcement from five different states, using military-style counterterrorism measures against the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Make America Great Again” and private security personnel – online sources

“If you or someone got the protesters riled up and got them arrested, they looked at you way better for that,” Dockter said. “There was definitely incentive for that. They wanted that to happen. They wanted the protesters provoked so they could act on that.” 

Ten Code Security  was contacted for comment, but did not reply or refused to comment. TigerSwan Inc. was also contacted for information, but did not comment. Additionally at press time, it was unsure if Dockter is prepared to testify in any potential court proceedings.

This is a breaking story, updates to continue when available.

Leaked Documents 2: TigerSwan and Government Twist Narrative Over Dakota Access Pipeline

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – As at Wounded Knee in 1973, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used informants to infiltrate the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline camps, according to government emails leaked to media outlet The Intercept

The claim was widely believed true by activists in the Standing Rock camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but was never proven until now. Law enforcement from five different states, the North Dakota National Guard, the National Sheriff’s Association, and TigerSwan security personnel hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of the Dakota Access LLC, also depended upon extracting information from social media feeds.

Police gather for a photo opportunity before a roadblock setup by activists, reports differ on who set the debris on fire – photo provided by online sources

Leaked emails stemming from the November 21 standoff on Backwater Bridge after militarized law enforcement used water cannons to force back hundreds of activists in freezing temperatures, reveal government agencies’ attempts to control the narrative. Hundreds of activists were reportedly injured, one seriously – Sophia Wilansky – was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after an explosion nearly ripped off her arm.

“Everyone watch a different live feed,” Bismarck Police Officer Lynn Wanner wrote in an email, which was seen by FBI agents, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“FBI inside source reporting propane tanks inside the camp rigged to explode,” Wanner, who according to records acted as an on-the-ground liaison between agencies, wrote in an email.

TigerSwan was quick to respond, worrying that activists would use the growing numbers of people injured as an “anti-DAPL propaganda,” according to records. 

Relying on information from the FBI’s infiltrator and social media posts on Facebook, U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry Van Horn sent out an email a day after the November 21 confrontation saying Wilansky was seen throwing a homemade Coleman-type gas canister bomb on Backwater Bridge.

“How can we get this story out? Rob Port?” Major Amber Balken, a public information officer with the North Dakota National Guard, said. “This is a must report.” 

Cecily Fong, a public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, replied saying she would “get with” the blogger for wider dissemination. 

Medics working to warm a man suffering from hypothermia – photo by C.S. Hagen

Wilansky was injured by an explosion from the activists’ side, Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported at the time, even after many eyewitnesses came forward saying that Wilansky was first struck with rubber bullets, and then targeted by a compression grenade while she was on the ground. Another eyewitness said she was hit first by a rubber bullet, and then by the grenade as she crossed the guardrail south of Backwater Bridge, approximately 30 feet from the frontline.

Lawyers working with Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, denied the accusations citing government disinformation. Formal notices of claim were filed against the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and other law enforcement agencies in May for state tort claims, and for libel, slander, and defamation of character. 

“This is outrageous that this happens in our country, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse,” Wayne Wilanksy said in a video interview.

In addition to the FBI’s informant, at least one other person was sighted in the back of a pickup truck holding a fake gun wrapped in duct tape, and another attempted to infiltrate the camps. 

Kyle Thompson, of Bismarck, was disarmed by activists then turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on October 27, 2016. Thompson was later handed over to Morton County, and then released, called a victim. No charges were filed at that time, but Thompson was later arrested in an unrelated case on drug and weapons charges in April 2017 by Bismarck Police. 

Thompson worked for Thompson-Gray LLC, listed under Silverton Consulting International by the Ohio Secretary of State, according to paperwork discovered inside his truck. The company was not authorized to work in North Dakota, and was owned by Charles Graham Clifton, a man who has at least three civil lawsuits filed against him. 

 

Forty-three years after Wounded Knee
In 1973, confrontations between Native Americans and government agencies at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, lasted 71 days, leaving two people killed during shootouts, 12 people wounded, including one FBI agent, and to the arrests of approximately 1,200 people. Forty-three years later, the anti-DAPL movement camped outside Standing Rock for nearly ten months with no casualties, but hundreds suffered from hypothermia under siege-like tactics, and were also hit with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, attack dogs, and percussion grenades. Approximately 761 people were arrested by law enforcement, whose efforts and intelligence were coordinated by TigerSwan Inc., the  private security company hired by Energy Transfer Partners. 

Starting soon after Ohio-based Frost Kennels admitted its involvement in altercations when the security company’s attack dogs bit activists in September 2016, TigerSwan stepped in, and worked closely with law enforcement using military-style counterterrorism measures against the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to documents leaked to The Intercept.  

TigerSwan attempted to target Native Americans, especially those involved in the Red Warrior Society and the American Indian Movement, actress Shailene Woodley, even activists from Black Lives Matter, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch, according to records, and labelled activists outside of Standing Rock as “jihadists” involved in a religious uprising. 

Daily intelligence report from TigerSwan circulated to law enforcement included this picture of a gorilla overseeing the Standing Rock camps

Aaron Pollitt, 28, from Indiana, was charged on October 22, 2016 by Morton County Sheriff’s deputies for engaging in a riot and criminal trespass, and was also targeted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force after leaving Standing Rock. 

“It was really eerie,” Pollitt said. “It is really concerning to be investigated by a terrorism task force or state police, but I am not too concerned.This is an assault on the rights of people to be scaring us away from our right to protest and to free speech.”

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov. The North Dakota Secretary of State holds one record for TigerSwan, LLC, established in Fargo on November 7, 2016, seven months after the controversy began. 

Communication between the various agencies attempts to paint the activists – known as water protectors – as criminals, out of state troublemakers, and sexual deviants, a theme widely reported by the state’s media, particularly on the Forum Communication Company’s right-wing editorialist Say Anything Blog, managed by Port. 

“We probably should be ready for a massive media backlash tomorrow although we are in the right. 244 angry voicemails received so far,” Ben Leingang said on November 21. Leingang is listed as the director of the North Dakota Fusion Center, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, State of North Dakota, by Leadership Directories

The North Dakota Fusion Center was established by current Senator John Hoeven R-N.D., when he was governor in 2007, and began to serve as a industrial surveillance complex for communications between North Dakota law enforcement and National Guard with the federal government for information collections, analysis, and dissemination, according to the North Dakota Governor’s Office. 

 

Creating the government narrative 
In an October 3, 2016 TigerSwan document, security agents attempted to exploit internal divisions between Native Americans and “white allies,” saying that drug use and sexual activity persist among the activists, which at the time was closing in on 10,000 people. What was uncertain to TigerSwan operatives was the “number and type of weapons within the camps or who has been providing military-style training sessions.” 

Nearly every mainstream North Dakota media outlet used more ink to publish stories pertaining to local anger and trash pileups than actual events occurring along the Dakota Access Pipeline. Additionally, law enforcement tried to exacerbate the story that a journalist was attacked inside the camps on October 18. Phelim McAleer, from Ireland, was given permission to enter the camps and soon began asking pointed question about activists being hypocritical, he said. 

McAleer is known as a pro-oil public relations agitator, and ‘professional character assassin’ by many. 

TigerSwan disseminated a Powerpoint report citing positive and negative aspects of the controversy. 

“Positive – Sheriff’s Association continues to publish positive news stories. Local news media is highlighting negative effects the protesters are having to the area.”

“Negative – Protesters continue posting anti-law enforcement anti-DAPL content on social media in order to garner sympathy and support for their cause.”  

TigerSwan also became the law enforcements’ ‘weatherman,’ posting the week’s predicted weather patterns. 

On the south side of the camps, activists held daily classes teaching newcomers about passive resistance tactics, incessantly stressing the importance of non-violent methods. Rules were posted on a large board outside the tent’s entrance. 

Direct Action classroom tent – photo by C.S. Hagen

In the Sacred Stone Camp, medical massages were available for those suffering from muscle or bone injuries. Multiple kitchens were usually busy, either feeding those inside the camps or running food and coffee out to lookout sites. 

Many people wore knives at their belt, a common tool for anyone living in the wilderness. Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported no weapons were found within the camps at any time. Morton County Public Information Officer Maxine Herr added that the department received reports of weapons – other than survival tools – spotted in vehicles and elsewhere. 

Early during the controversy, either due to faulty information from the FBI’s informant, or due to a cultural misunderstanding, Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported knowledge of pipe bombs, which turned out to be ceremonial pipes. When asked about the claim during an interview, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney told reporters that tribal leaders said pipe bombs were being made inside the camps.

In 2016, Morton County law enforcement agencies received 8,033 reports, of which 5,257 were verified offenses, Herr stated. 

“September to December, when protesters were her in mass, showed a significant uptick,” Herr said. 

Typically, monthly calls for assistance and crime reports average nearly 400 per month in Morton County, according to police records. In 2016, reports began increasing across the county in June, climaxing at 1,159 reports in September, and slowly decreasing until December with 895 reports called in. Numbers reflect all calls made to Morton County pertaining to any situation, not specifically related to the DAPL controversy.  

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault and other leaders insisted on peaceful protest and prayer.  Signs were posted at the camps’ entrances not allowing weapons or drugs. Although the camps temporarily became North Dakota’s tenth largest community, few real crimes were reported from within the activists’ camps.

TigerSwan also arranged meetings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to documents. In October 2016, the security company also stated activists will continue to “riot” and force law enforcement to respond with violence. The concern revolved around the pipeline project, however, and not the potential life of a human being. 

“The use of force or death of a protester or rioter will result in the immediate halt to DAPL operations, which will likely permanently halt the entire project,” the October report stated. 

Daily intelligence information from TigerSwan to law enforcement

TigerSwan operatives were also concerned about peaceful activists. “It is important to weed out the non-aggressive groups as they will drain our resources in the wrong direction with no effect to our client.” 

TigerSwan was also seeking information at the time when former Governor Jack Dalrymple attempted to enforce fines on what people in his administration termed as “terrorists,” – anyone traveling the roads to the camps and on local sympathizers providing support, logistics, and “potentially shelter for those committing criminal acts.” 

 

Standing Rock Leaders Acquitted 

Hundreds initially charged during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, dozens, so far, found not guilty or cases dropped

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN
– Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II and Councilman Dana Yellow Fat were found not guilty Wednesday in a jury trial on charges of disorderly conduct.

Dave Archambault at police line August 2016

The charges stemmed from an August 12, 2016 incident near the Cannonball Ranch, where Archambault was filmed pushing his way through a police line, and Yellow Fat grabbed a police officer’s arm. The video was definitive proof of guilt to many critics, but not to Bismarck attorney Erica Shively, of Elsberry & Shively, P.C., who defended Archambault and Yellow Fat.  

“I also knew that police officers got in the way of my two clients headed down a public road that they had every right to travel down unrestricted by law enforcement,” Shively said. 

Mclean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson prosecuted the case for Morton County. The jury spent 10 minutes in deliberation before unanimously announcing a not guilty verdict, according to Shively. 

Yellow Fat was unsure of the outcome when he entered the courtroom, he said. 

“Anytime you leave a major decision in the hands of others, no matter how confident you are, there is always that agonizing little voice saying, ‘I hope they get it right,’” Yellow Fat said. 

“I really believe that justice is being served in many of the cases,” Yellow Fat said. “You can’t trample over people’s First Amendment rights to assemble and free speech without negative ramifications. Even if those ramifications are in the court of public opinion. The world watched as this unfolded, and now the world continues to watch it unfold in the court system. 

“These small victories in the court system are a definite positive for our constitutional rights.”

“The State has charged out many cases for which there is no where near adequate evidence to convict folks who were simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” Shively said. “I believe that the state is relying on its belief that the media has sufficiently tainted both the juries and judges in these matters to a point where they will get convictions on bad cases. Thankfully, we are seeing that both the judges and juries, while many may disagree with the position of protesters, they are not letting that affect their duty to deliver justice.”

“It’s really good to hear that Morton County justices are administering the law in this saga,” Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney who also faces felony charges incurred during the Dakota Access controversy, said. “Archambault as well as Councilman Dana Yellow Fat led the early stages of the No DAPL resistance. I fully support the adequate and zealous defense of over 800 people criminally charged in this historic battle.”

Iron Eyes, who ran for Congress in North Dakota last year, said the verdict gives him encouragement. No trial date has been set for his case yet. 

A total of 761 people were charged with crimes during the ten-month controversy, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The movement drew more than 20,000 people from across the world to Standing Rock, and ran the state a bill in excess of $38 million, bringing in police from five different states, the National Sheriff’s Association, the mercenary outfit TigerSwan, and criticism from the United Nations. 

Dozens of activists’ cases stemming from the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy have been dismissed, with only a few being found guilty. On May 25, three felony and misdemeanor charges related to piloting a drone against Aaron Sean Turgeon, also known as ‘Prolific the Rapper,’ were dismissed after Surrogate Judge Allan L. Schmalenberger, a former North Dakota Supreme Court Justice, reviewed the case. Shively also defended Turgeon, she said. 

“Of course I knew I was not guilty, but proving it in court is an entirely different thing, and that’s what we did,” Turgeon said in a video outside of the Morton County Courthouse. He said friends and activists surrounded him when police attempted to confiscated his drone. Without their support, he would not have had the video evidence he needed to prove his innocence. 

“A lot of times what you’re being shown by police officers is not true, and I knew it, but it’s not about knowing it, it’s about proving it.” 

“The police officers were clearly coached by the State’s Attorney to fabricate evidence contrary to the facts by falsifying affidavits on their reports in support of their preliminary hearings,” cooperating attorney Danny Sheehan said. 

Aaron Sean Turgeon ‘Prolific the Rapper’ (right) – Facebook page

“Aside from the fact that we had a very thorough and fair judge in this case which made a huge difference, a lot of the basis for the success in the case today was the support of the water protectors and our client Sean’s video evidence that exposed the falsehoods in the state’s case,” cooperating attorney Doug Parr from Oklahoma City said. “One of my concerns is that the charges in this case appear to have been fabricated to justify the no-fly zone that was imposed in late October of last year.”

Ten cases were dismissed by the Morton County State’s Attorney office on May 9, and two other cases were also dismissed on March 30, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective. 

“Oil may be flowing under Lake Oahe, but the arc of the moral universe still bends toward justice,” The Water Protector Legal Collective stated in a press release. “Water protectors are winning the fight against the head of the “black snake” in the courts, and this Movement has inspired so many to continue this fight elsewhere. These are still sacred times.”

On May 18, the United States District Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Dakota Access, LLC against Archambault, Yellowfat, and other activists. The pipeline company filed a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuit, after activists blocked the pipeline’s path in 2016. Dakota Access, LLP claimed it incurred damages of up to $75,000, but Judge Daniel Hovland found that DAPL could not prove its case, thus, the federal court had no jurisdiction.

While Standing Rock activists’ cases are being dismissed, the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline has already sprung two leaks, according to the Williston Herald, the Associated Press, and media outlet Business Insider.

Dana Yellow Fat – Facebook page

On March 3, 84 gallons spilled from a leak where two sections of the pipeline connect in Watford City, and then two days later a smaller leak of 20 gallons occurred in Mercer County, according to Business Insider

Yellow Fat is relieved to have the experience behind him, he said. 

“After 10 months, having my trial continued several times, and feeling the stress of deciding to testify or not, it’s a good feeling to put this behind us. My family has been totally supportive, and I appreciate everything they have done in spite of me having to face these charges. 

“To the hundreds still awaiting their day in court, stay positive, keep the faith, stay in prayer. Have faith in the system.” 

TigerSwan Counterterrorism Tactics Used to Defeat Dakota Access Pipeline “Insurgencies”

By C.S. Hagen
CANNONBALL
– Documents leaked to media outlet The Intercept showed private security firm TigerSwan worked closely with law enforcement from five different states, and used military-style counterterrorism measures against the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  

Eviction Day at the camps outside of Standing Rock – photo by C.S. Hagen

Activists were identified, then tracked by name through sightings, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Protest sites were allocated numbers, and detailed accounts of day-by-day actions were monitored and reported to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, LLC. Police officers in areas along the pipeline route who were unwilling to make arrests were dealt with, according to documents, and TigerSwan mercenaries daily planned operations with local police. 

The result led to a massive misinformation campaign, the arrests of 761 activists, journalists, and Native Americans, and more than $38 million the state spent during the emergency state declared by former Governor Jack Dalrymple. In addition, at least three activists who joined the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, have been targeted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

TigerSwan communications described the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component,” comparing anti-pipeline activists to jihadist fighters, and stating the agency expected a “post-insurgency model after its collapse,” according to the documents. 

A September 13, 2016 situation report filed to Energy Transfer Partner Chief Security Officer John Porter by TigerSwan said the Dakota Access Pipeline was 99.98 percent on private land, for which all permissions had been obtained. 

In November 2016, however, Republican Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak stated in an interview that the pipeline is solely on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lands and does not have even one case of eminent domain usage against a private individual. 

“All the easements were obtained voluntarily and only go through Corps land,” Fedorchak said.

TigerSwan’s agenda toward correcting and “guiding” the media was also evident as it continuously stressed its agents would be responsible for contacting the press with corrections to their outlined agenda.

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov. TigerSwan was founded by Delta Force veteran Jim Reese. The retired lieutenant colonel first worked for the State Department with counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, and was also a former vice president of Blackwater Worldwide, “the world’s most powerful mercenary army,” according to a book written by Jeremy Scahill entitled “Blackwater The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” 

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation looked into private security firms involved with the Energy Transfer Partners near Standing Rock Sioux Reservation last year, and whether the multiple companies involved were authorized to work in the state. The investigation has not led to any charges filed. 

The North Dakota Secretary of State holds one record for TigerSwan, LLC, established in Fargo on November 7, 2016, seven months after the controversy began. 

While North Dakota militarized its police and the state legislature attempted to criminalize many forms of protest last session, the fact that a private security firm retained by a tight-lipped, multi-billion dollar corporation has “profoundly anti-democratic implications,” according to The Intercept

The front line – photo by C.S. Hagen

While the controversy neared its end, an invisible enemy was reported extensively by activists present at the Standing Rock camps. Cellular phones were suddenly drained of power and rendered useless, hard drives were wiped clean. Electronic bugs were discovered inside the nearby Prairie Knights Casino, owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The attacks were considered “psychologically-driven” by nonprofit Geeks Without Bounds, who helped activists fight what it called “cyber warfare.” 

“While we were working in the NoDAPL camps, we knew that these tactics were being used,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said. “Our devices would stop working for periods of time, hard drives would be cleared of information and footage, and from time to time camp security would identify infiltrators inside the camp who were working for Energy Transfer Partners.”

In addition to the cyber warfare, at least one private security person attempted to infiltrate the camps, and one individual armed with a fake gun wrapped in duct tape was sighted. 

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

Kyle Thompson, of Bismarck, was disarmed by activists then turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Thompson was later handed over to Morton County, and then released, called a victim. No charges were filed at that time, but Thompson was later arrested in an unrelated case on drug and weapons charges in April 2017 by Bismarck Police. 

“Now we have the evidence. This proof also tells us more about the militarization of the police and the violence they imposed on water protectors. By comparing indigenous peoples to civilians and jihadist fighters, police and security were essentially given permission to carry out war-like tactics on water protectors.” 

The activists who disarmed Thompson of an AR-15 as he was headed toward the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, face felony charges. 

Thompson worked for Thompson-Gray LLC, listed under Silverton Consulting International by the Ohio Secretary of State, according to paperwork discovered inside his truck. The company was not authorized to work in North Dakota, and was owned by Charles Graham Clifton, a man who has at least three civil lawsuits filed against him. 

TigerSwan has ingratiated itself with the National Sheriffs’ Association by becoming a silver partner, according to the National Sheriffs’ Association website. The National Sheriffs’ Association was involved heavily during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and wrote a letter the US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, demonizing unarmed activists and the federal government’s lack of response in what it called a deluge of arson, vandals, rioting, and intimidation. 

North Dakota is the second-biggest oil producing state in the United States, and has within its borders an oil patch among the ten largest in the world. Historically, the state been lackadaisical about instituting stricter regulations. A spirit of leniency toward oil companies has been fostered in North Dakota, analysts say. Criticism over lowering fines for oil and saltwater spills and property tax hikes to support big oil’s return have mounted. In January 2016 the North Dakota Industrial Commission, Oil and Gas Division agreed to scrutinize the issues, but behind closed doors. 

Law enforcement behind their own barricade – photo by C.S. Hagen

Some of the state’s top politicians are chairmen or members of regulating agencies governing big oil and Native American interests. Additionally, big oil supports the political campaigns of Senator John Hoeven, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Rep. Kevin Cramer, making their voices, according to some, tainted.

The cozy relationship between TigerSwan, law enforcement agencies, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the Peace Garden State’s politicians with the oil and gas industry suggests a partnership that threatens free speech, human rights, and the very basis of democracy. 

“The usage of counterterrorism tactics upon our NoDAPL movement is not only extremely disturbing, but feeds into a historical narrative of oppression that indigenous peoples and people of color have dealt with for generations,” Tom Goldtooth, also of he Indigenous Environmental Network stated. “Many of our brothers and sisters incarcerated across the country for their activism are political prisoners as a result of such disruptive tactics used by companies like TigerSwan.” 

Might And Money Win Again 

As pipelines leak, and Bakken soil is poisoned, North Dakota politicians snuggle closer to oil tycoons

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– The collusion between might and money historically has been the beginning of the end for countless empires. 

From China’s Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago to the American Revolutionary War against a corrupt monarchy, when power marries money, downfall always follows.  

North Dakota government’s collusion with private corporations is “so expansive that there does not appear to be a sense in the general public where there is anything wrong with this,” Barry Nelson of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition said. 

It was the same when ancient China’s King Zhou Xin created a pond filled with wine to float on, or when King George III raised taxes on the colonies to fill royal coffers. Both leaders, at the pinnacle of empire, decided not to listen to what was right, but to what they thought was profitable. 

No ethics committees or commissions exist within the Peace Garden State. Instead, the North Dakota Century Code leaves ethical decisions up to the individual.

“The resolution of ethical problems must rest largely in the individual conscience… to resist influences that may bias a member’s independent judgment,” North Dakota legislation reports. 

Today, the Dakota Access Pipeline is leaking, and the Bakken earth is poisoned. Politicians are welcoming slick-talking oil tycoons like conquering heroes. Despite a United Nations condemnation of state militarized tactics in March, little, if anything, has changed in the Peace Garden State. Hundreds the 761 activists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy still await trial, adding to the approximately $38 million the state has already spent militarizing local police and quelling the disquiet outside of Standing Rock. And while litigation continues, it’s business as usual for state politicians. 

On April 19 Valley News Live “Point of View” Anchor Chris Berg posted pictures of Congressman Kevin Cramer R-ND, ceremoniously giving Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren the pen President Trump used to sign the DAPL executive order. Additionally, Berg thanked Warren online for traveling to the Peace Garden State, and asked Governor Doug Burgum – not for the first time – if the state would accept a fat check from the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners. 

Pictures of Rep. Kevin Cramer presenting Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren with pen President Trump used to sign the DAPL executive order – photo listed on POVnow Facebook page

It is a move many suggest is similar to the age of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency collusion with the federal government. Warren continues to offer to pay in full the state’s expenditures used in militarizing police and cracking down on Standing Rock and the No DAPL movement. 

So far, the offer has not been rejected by state politicians.

North Dakota will receive up to $15 million in federal funding for costs incurred during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, according to Governor Burgum’s office. 

“We’re committed to pursuing all avenues available to hold the federal government responsible and ensure that North Dakota taxpayers alone don’t bear the enormous costs of law enforcement and other resources expended on the protests,” Burgum said. 

Rep. Kevin Cramer and Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren – photo posted on POVnow Facebook page

Burgum also sent a letter to President Trump stating that the federal government is significantly responsible for costs due to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to enforce regulations. 

“Ethically, it has all the appearances – it has a smell to it – it seems to be undue influence of one industry, one company, on federal and state governments, and you want to believe the government is there to make sure all sides of the issue are addressed,” Nelson said.  

During the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, the state was not looking out for all sides of the dispute, rather to assist oil industry’s agenda, Nelson said. 

“It’s one thing when it feels like collusion between a government official, in this case Kevin Cramer, and a corporate head of a private industry, in this case a pipeline company, if the general public feels all of this was perfectly justified, then what is considered right and wrong anymore? It makes you step back. The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition believes that this kind of collusion between private industry and government is wrong. Good cannot come out of this. 

“It speaks so much about power and money against the people.” 

Bakken earth is poisoned, according an April 27, 2016 study released by Duke University, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and published in the Environmental Science & Technology magazine. The study shows that accidental wastewater spills from “unconventional oil production in North Dakota have caused widespread water and soil contamination.” 

Much of the poisons come from brine, or saltwater used in frakking, and is non-biodegradable. 

More than 9,700 wells have been drilled in the Bakken region of North Dakota in the past decade, which led to more than 3,900 brine spills, primarily from faulty pipes, the report states.

The water studied in some spill sites was unsafe to drink, the study reported.

High levels of ammonium, selenium, lead, and salts have been found in the soil; streams have been polluted by wastewater, which contain contaminants, according to the study. Soil along spill sites has also been contaminated with radium, a radioactive element.

“Many smaller spills have also occurred on tribal lands, and as far as we know, no one is monitoring them,” Avner Vengosh, a researcher and a professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University said. “People who live on the reservations are being left to wonder how it might affect their land, water, health and way of life.”

The spills are primarily coming from pipelines in the Bakken area, he said. The spill areas have not affected reservoirs for human drinking water, but some are close. Everyone shudders when news of an oil spill breaks headlines; brine spills are far more frightening, he said.

“Nature cannot heal from inorganic brine spills,” Vengosh said. “The contaminants are going to stay. You can dilute and over time this will help, but the actual concentration will remain.”

In other words, areas where the brine spills have occurred in the Bakken region must be completely removed and disposed of. Radiation, which could spread by wild animals, is another concern that is difficult to control.

“And the more wells you drill, the more spills you have,” Vengosh said..

The narrative spun by the state has assumed that the need for militarized security was because of out-of-state environmental terrorists who chose to stake their claim here, Nelson said. “So no responsibility is placed on bad decisions made by the state legislators, that the company violated laws and did things that were illegal. None of that is laid at their doorstep. All is on the doorstep of people coming from around the country, and locally from Standing Rock. 

“It’s blaming the rape victim that they got raped.”

Additionally, the 1,100-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, made from “sterner stuff” according to politicians and engineers, and with Russian steel, according to DeSmog, has already leaked 84 gallons in South Dakota. A storage tank outside of Keene, North Dakota spilled 25,620 gallons when an operator overfilled the tank, according to North Dakota Department of Health. 

Both spills took investigators a month to announce the mishaps to the public.

“This spills serves as a reminder that it is not a matter of if a pipeline spills, it’s a matter of when a pipeline spills,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said. “The fact that this occurred before Dakota Access even becomes operational is all the more concerning. We fear more spills will come to bear, which is an all too frequent situation with Energy Transfer Partners pipeline projects. As such, eyes of the world are watching and will keep Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Partners accountable.”

Although most of the world thinks Standing Rock’s movement is dead, remnants remain. For months, Facebook statuses reported former Dakota Access Pipeline activists, or water protectors, felt lost after the February closing of the camps outside Standing Rock. Dozens of cases have been thrown out of court, but not all. 

Some water protectors are still wandering. Others have found new causes defending water at Flint, Michigan, Dresden, Ohio, and against the Piñon Pipeline in New Mexico. Activists have also set up the Four Band Great Sioux Nation Camp on Standing Rock land.

The movement against big oil, for native rights and clean water, has spurred at least fifteen new camps to life around the country, according to Rev. Karen Van Fossan, a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship & Church of Bismarck-Mandan. 

A “Stand with Standing Rock” banner hangs outside her church, a congregation that has been in Bismarck for 65 years. During the controversy her church and church members housed at least 250 activists. The stance her church takes on the issue has created controversy in Bismarck she said, but is also a blessing in disguise. 

“Some of us who are white, and haven’t experienced racism in any kind of real way, have now had some glimpse of what that experience might be like,” Fossan said. 

“In my experience, the water protector movement has given us in North Dakota an opportunity to face some pretty harsh realities about racism in our state. I sometimes hear it said that race relations are more strained now than they have been in some time, and people of color who I know tell me actually, the racism has been there. 

“Now it is just that all of us are taking the opportunity to look at it and contend with it.” 

State support of big business has trampled indigenous rights, but has given the state a unique opportunity for change. 

“I have been increasingly concerned about the role of many governmental entities, locally and statewide, promoting the interests of business and painfully ignoring other voices,” Fossan, who is also a writer, said. 

“Even while I’m deeply disturbed by the executive order to push the pipeline through against the very clear voices of Standing Rock and many other native nations, I do see that here locally in Bismarck and Mandan, we continue to have an opportunity like we haven’t had in a long time to look at the reality of life in our communities, and the reality of racism. Not just personal visible racism that many indigenous people and people of color in our communities experience regularly, but the systems themselves are already rolling along in ways that at best ignore indigenous voices and at worst push a pipeline through, and manifest in the arrests of hundreds of people.”

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