Regional police spent $613,000 on equipment for containing the months-long protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline throughout 2016 and early 2017, according to The Associated Press.
Protesters crowded onto Standing Rock Sioux tribal land in North Dakota for nearly a year beginning in April 2017, costing state taxpayers millions. New documents obtained by the AP show regional police forces spent a combined $613,000 on equipment alone to contain the protests. The money purchased smoke grenades, riot gear, night vision goggles, flash-bang grenades, and more than 2,000 rounds of non-lethal ammunition.
“There was a legitimate, deliberate plan that was put together that said, ‘OK, how can we do this and do it safe for folks on both sides?'” state Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz told reporters. “At the end of the day we were successful.”
Police made hundreds of arrests throughout the protests, that were attempting to block the construction of a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline going through tribal land. The environmental protesters caused incredible damage both to surrounding populations and to the campsites where they stayed. Nearly 550 households reported damages varying between $15,000 and $20,000 each, totaling roughly $8 million in losses.
When the protests ended in Feb. 2017, the state had to work quickly to clean out the campsites before spring thaw flooded the area.
Protesters burned their campsites on their way out and left tons of garbage for the state to clean up, requiring a weeks-long cleanup effort. Sanitation crews bulldozed the campsites and searched for dead bodies rolled up in tarps or any deadly weapons that could still have been used against law enforcement.
Police purchased the equipment over fears that protesters had brought firearms into the campsites, Wilz said.
“That’s why the helmets and the shields and the protection came out,” he told the AP. “Largely it was there to protect the officers who were trying to protect the general public on all sides of this issue.”
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