Photo Credit: Morton County Sheriff’s Department
[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Members of the US-based Episcopal Church are being asked to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction project. Clergy and laity from across the Episcopal Church have been invited to stand on the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota on Thursday (3 November) as protests continue. The plea was issued as the Standing Rocking Sioux Nation tribal chair, Dave Archambault II, asked the US Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate “potential civil rights violations” involving law enforcement’s response to the protests.
Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told local television station KFYR that the department was monitoring the response to the protests to “facilitate communication, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests, and maintain public safety.”
He also said that the department “will not authorise constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe” while the Army Corps of Engineers reviews issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations.
He added that in the interim the departments of the Army, Interior and Justice “have reiterated our request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”
The Revd John Floberg, supervising priest of the Episcopal churches on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, issued the call for the Episcopal Church to “stand in solidarity and witness with those protecting water on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota” over concern about “the increased repression of non-violent water protectors whose ranks include men, women and youth, and supported by the wisdom of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault,” the Episcopal Church’s public affairs department said in a statement.
“The militarised police presence near the camps of water protectors, compounded by the mass arrests of some of those protectors in recent days, have stirred the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and other Episcopalians to advocacy and action.
“Over the past month, Episcopalians have called upon the US Department of Justice to monitor the actions of local law enforcement, state police, and the US National Guard, urging law-enforcement officials to ‘de-escalate military and police provocation in and near the campsites of peaceful protest and witness of the Dakota Access Pipeline project’”, the statement said.
“In recent days, the repressive power of the state has increased: armed riot police are guarding ongoing pipeline construction, increased arrests and repression of non-violent prayerful action,” Floberg said. “At the same time, Oceti Sakowin water protectors have reclaimed land never relinquished by treaty directly in the path of the pipeline and established a new camp. Our duty as people of faith and clergy could not be clearer: to stand on the side of the oppressed and to pray for God’s mercy in these challenging times.”