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Presiding Bishop’s concern over Standing Rock pipe protest policing

Posted on: December 2, 2016 4:39 PM
A Standing Rock protestor locks himself to construction equipment as part of a non-violent direct-action campaign against the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
Photo Credit: Desiree Kane / YouTube

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church has expressed his concern over the policing of protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipe passes through ground sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and underneath the Missouri River and part of Lake Oahe, leading to concerns about water pollution should the pipe leak. The 1,172-mile-long pipe is expected to carry some 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

The Standing Rock Sioux Nation have been protesting against the construction of the pipeline, and have won the support from both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Protest camps have sprung up across the route and there have been concerns about the militarised policing response.

Now, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has written to North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, urging them to “monitor the nature and tone of the policing actions.”

In his letter, Bishop Curry says that he appreciates “the complexity of the conflict” that the two civic leaders are managing, and says: “I want to assure you of my prayers.” But he continues: “The Episcopal Church is grateful to stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds of the Sioux Nation.

“We do so seeking to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us that love of God and love of our neighbour is the highest moral law and religious duty (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:25-37).”

He said that hundreds of Episcopal clergy and lay leaders had spent time in Standing Rock “to bear non-violent witness to the water-protection efforts underway near Sacred Stone Camp” and that they had reported “alarming accounts of undue force used by law enforcement against the water protectors.”

He continued: “I urge you to monitor the nature and tone of the policing actions by local and state law enforcement, the National Guard, and private contractors. I also ask that you take action to address and stop the use of water cannons and rubber bullets, as well as the use of military equipment that escalates tensions between the parties.

“I am deeply concerned about the number of protectors who have been injured, and the potential loss of life that could result from the continued use of these tactics.”

He said that a delegation of some 30 chaplains would be deployed to Standing Rock in the coming days to assist people experiencing trauma. “These religious chaplains are called to care for those who are wounded, traumatised, or seeking spiritual support,” the Presiding Bishop said. “They have pledged not to participate in demonstration activities. As they carry out their work, I ask that you safeguard them, ensuring that they meet no harm or violence as they seek to bring healing to all those gathered at Standing Rock.”

He concluded his letter by offering the Church’s assistance “in the creation of a peaceful and just way forward.”