Serve & Protect or Punish & Injure

Militarized Police Use Sonic Weapons Against Opponents of DAPL

By Joel Efferson

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This photo was taken below Turtle Hill on November 24, 2016 while Water Protectors tried to pray while standing off against Morton County and private security. Photo Credit: Dennis F. Martinez Jr.

Officer Friendly is dead. Now we have some jackbooted thug in riot gear laughing to his buddies as he shoves his knee into your back, grinds your head into the pavement, and pepper sprays, tasers, or maybe just shoots you. Hyperbole? Unfortunately for you and me, this scene is becoming increasingly more common and all too real. Especially for those who exercise the First Amendment right to free speech or who dare to stand in the way of “progress.”

Author Frank Herbert said, “The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.” This concept of progress is a terror that protesters of the North Dakota Access Pipeline have been standing up to and facing the violent repercussions.

According to Energy Transfers Partners, this 1,200 mile, $3.8 billion dollar pipeline is being built to move North Dakota’s oil through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois and “The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is the safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from domestic wells to American Consumers.”

After lengthy legal battles and protests the Texas-based Energy Transfers Partners received approval from the US Army Corp of Engineers to continue construction on February 8, 2017. Construction has restarted despite the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement and in total disregard of the people who will have to live with the pipeline carrying tons of crude oil through their indigenous lands and ancestral burial grounds.

“The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux say the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens their drinking water, cultural sites and ability to practice their religion, which depends on pure water” said Jake Nicholson of the Associated Press. The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribe, as well as the Oglala and Yankton Sioux of South Dakota, have filed multiple legal briefs attempting to force the Army to revoke its permission to continue construction, all of which have been denied.These pipelines are far from being 100% safe. A nearby pipeline in Iowa owned by Magellan Midstream Partners burst on Wednesday February 14, 2017.

“A 12-inch pipeline has ruptured in North-Central Iowa, and has leaked 3,300 barrels (almost 140,000 gallons) of diesel fuel onto a nearby farm” according to Tom Cahill of US Uncut. If a spill like this occurred to the DAPL it would poison the drinking water of millions of people in multiple states.

People have come together from all around the country to protest the legal decisions and construction and, as often happens when police and protesters collide there has been violence. Numerous lawsuits have been filed suing the police because of their brutal tactics and excessive use of force, as well as entering appeals against the Federal Court decision that allows the use of such violent crowd control measures as tear gas and rubber bullets. Despite their inherent cruelty, rubber bullets and tear gas are a widely used and accepted form of crowd control and dispersal, and have been for decades. But while such abuse of American citizens has been traditionally deemed acceptable the unsavory tactics being deployed by 11 different police agencies against opponents of the DAPL is anything but.

Protesters have suffered beatings, warrantless searches, night raids, having their cars run off the road, and countless other injustices, and in addition to all that, they are now facing police armed with military gear like sonic weapons and concussion grenades.

Police aren’t just equipped with military hardware, they are carrying out gangland-style tactics. Police forces around the country receive weapons and gear from the military.  The Department of Defense has authority to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition” according to Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act. These small arms and ammunitions include assault rifles, hollow point rounds and concussion grenades, and they are using these weapons for crowd-control equipment against unarmed protesters?

“By providing law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment free of charge, the NDAA encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics” said Taylor Wofford in an article for Newsweek. With incentives like that it is no surprise that police forces look for any and every opportunity to use their new toys.

But what can we do? We can stand up and say that this is wrong. Vote and write letters to the lawmakers deciding to arm our nations’ police for war against its own citizens. Social media can be a tool for ensuring that these abuses aren’t being swept under the proverbial rug. There is much that can be done, but the worst would be to do nothing. After all, police and policymakers may be just doing their jobs, but they work for us.

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