The Morton County Sheriff’s Office responded Tuesday that law enforcement showed “great restraint in the face of professional protesters” when the office came upon a class action lawsuit filed by National Lawyers Guild group on behalf of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock protest site claiming police used excessive force against the demonstrators.
The civil rights class action complaint seeks “damages and injunctive relief arising from Defendants’ curtailment of Plaintiffs’ First and Fourth Amendment rights by using highly dangerous Specialty Impact Munitions (SIM), explosive teargas grenades, teargas canisters, and a water cannon spraying high pressure water, as a means of dispersing protests and prayer ceremonies associated with opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).”
“Plaintiffs are Native Americans and other concerned citizens, known as ‘water protectors,’ who have protested and wish to continue protesting against DAPL,” the complaint states.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in a statement, “Law enforcement has shown great restraint in the face of professional protestors who wish to instigate conflict and violence. We categorically reject these allegations. For weeks, we have protected the rights of peaceful protestors in communities in and around Mandan.”
He went on to say, “The real brutality is committed violent protestors who use improvised explosive devices to attack police, use hacked information to threaten officers and their families, and use weapons to kill livestock, harming farmers and ranchers. We will continue to enforce the law, and urge those lawful protestors to isolate those who are unlawful.”
According to law enforcement documents, a number of the protesters involved in the lawsuit have long criminal histories.
Vanessa Dundon, also known as Sioux Z, was working as a first responder at Standing Rock since September 11. She previously was charged with violating a restraining order, possessing and selling drug paraphernalia, driving with a suspended license, failure to appear in court, as well as multiple traffic violations.
Dundon claims law enforcement purposefully hit her in the face with a tear gas canister. Dundon argues doctors have been “sugar coating” her injuries.
Noah Michael Treanor — a student from Sonoma State University who compared “his actions and mindset at Standing Rock to a terrorist” — claims to have been shot by rubber bullets and doused by fire hoses during a DAPL protest.
Treanor failed to register for the another semester of classes at Sonoma after his financial aid was revoked, but before his involvement at Standing Rock he was charged with battery, vandalism, domestic violence and had a restraining order was issued against him in California.
Frank Finan claims he was “shot in the abdomen” and forced to the “ground by a rubber bullet” during a DAPL protest. He is an environmentalist who demonstrates against fracking but in 2014 he considered allowing oil companies to drill for oil on his own land and potentially make $600,000.
DAPL protester Israel Hoagland-Lynn is a construction worker from California. Hoagland-Lynn claims he was shot in the head with rubber bullets during a DAPL protest and received 17 staples for the injury. He gave a video interview describing the incident to a reporter. Hoagland-Lynn owes over $19,000 in federal taxes. He has been cited for several offenses in California.
Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz defended law enforcement in his county saying in a statement, “North Dakotans should be proud of law enforcement and the professionalism they have demonstrated throughout this ordeal. These protestors are now grasping at straws, using the court system to make false accusations against officers.”
He added, “If they were truly concerned about their fellow protestors’ well-being, they would help law enforcement isolate unlawful actors instead of committing unlawful acts themselves or standing by as they watch these professional protestors cause fear and terror.”