A new day of standoffs against the 1,200-mile Dakota Access pipeline continued on Friday in South Dakota as questions bubbled through social media over the fairness of how protesters were being treated.
The Standing Rock Sioux Native American tribe is suing to stop the pipeline from crossing next to their reservation, where they say it would destroy their sacred sites and negatively affect the water supply. The governors of Iowa and the Dakotas prodded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday to issue the permissions needed to continue construction. The tribe maintained in court that the corps did not consult it properly before moving forward.
The dispute between the tribe and the federal government has now evolved into standoffs that on Thursday escalated into a raid during which more than 140 people were arrested. Hundreds of police wearing riot gear closed in on an encampment of tents and teepees while surveillance helicopters circled overhead. Friday's activity was much more subdued however, as 50 protesters who faced military vehicles and police in riot gear in the morning evolved into quiet by Friday afternoon.
Native Americans from across the country have converged on the area to join the protest.
The escalation of tensions caused many members of the public to take to social media and compare how the Native American protesters have been treated compared to the organizers of a standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge who all were acquitted of federal charges on Thursday. The hashtag #noDAPL has been trending on Twitter.
"On the same day that a jury acquitted the Bundy brothers and their fellow protesters for taking over federal land in Oregon last January, police in North Dakota today used pepper spray gas and a painful high-pitched siren, and then arrested 117 Native Americans and others for protesting a private oil pipeline across land they say belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe under a 19th-century treaty," Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Clinton, posted on Facebook very early on Friday. "In other words, it's fine to mount an armed insurrection so your cattle can graze for free on federal land, but not if you want to protect your sacred burial ground or your only source of water from a private for-profit oil pipeline company," he wrote.
"So let me get this correct," Alicia Garza, founder of the Black Lives Matter social movement, posted on Facebook. "If you're white, you can occupy federal property ... and get found not guilty. No teargas, no tanks, no rubber bullets ... If you're indigenous and fighting to protect our earth, and the water we depend on to survive, you get tear gassed, media blackouts, tanks and all that."