Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline were reportedly attacked by security officers and their guard dogs at the site of the controversial $3.8 billion project in North Dakota. The demonstrators were also pepper-sprayed.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were met with violence from security guards and their canines when they gathered to protest the pipeline on Saturday, spokesperson Steve Sitting Bear said, as cited by AP.
He said that at least six people were bitten by the dogs, including a young child. At least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.
Independent news program Democracy Now filmed the demonstration, with footage showing protesters going through a wire fence and approaching construction workers. One worker can be seen throwing an activist to the ground.
One guard can be seen with pepper spray in his hand, while an activist says, “This man just maced me in the face.” Another protester said that a guard set a dog on him, and pointed to his injured arm.
In response, one demonstrator can be heard loudly screaming, “Get your f**king dogs out of here!”
“Water is life… without water, we all wouldn't be here. These plants wouldn't be here, there'd be no oxygen, we'd all die without it. I wish they'd open their eyes and have a heart to realize, you know, if this happens, we're not going to be the only ones to suffer. They're going to suffer too,”one protester told Democracy Now.
*video contains explicit language
Upon pushing back against the attack, the security personnel left with their dogs. The demonstrators then began marching over dirt mounds created by bulldozers at the site, while chanting, “We're not leaving!”
More than 3,000 Native Americans have camped at the site in protest since April.
Last week, environmental groups petitioned President Barack Obama to deny permits for construction of the pipeline, and to revoke the standing permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. They said the pipeline could prove to be an “existential threat to the tribe’s culture and way of life.”
“We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites,” Dave Archambault II, the elected chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement. “But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”
A federal judge will rule before September 9 whether construction can be halted on the 1,172 mile-long pipeline, which would pass through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and cross underneath the Missouri River.
Among the tribe's supporters is former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who said last month that the pipeline must be stopped, regardless of the court's decision.
“As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil. I join with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter.