A Standing Rock protester was formally charged Monday with attempted murder of an officer after she allegedly fired three shots when officers tried to forcibly remove her and other protesters near the Dakota Access Pipeline easement in Morton County, North Dakota, last week.
The attempted murder charge is the latest in an escalating series of recent clashes between law enforcement and protesters demonstrating against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline over the past 11 weeks. The United Nations and Amnesty International said on Friday they were sending observers to North Dakota based on allegations of human rights abuses following last week’s clashes; Amnesty International sent a letter to the Morton County Sheriff’s Office last week urging police “to ensure that the treatment of demonstrators is in accordance with international human rights standards and the U.S. constitution.”
Red Fawn Fallis, 37, was arrested along with 140 others on Thursday. Police said Fallis fired three rounds, saying it was “unbelievable” that officers weren’t shot. “I was standing two feet from her when it happened, so I know how lucky we can be, OK?” North Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Bryan Niewind said at a press conference Monday night. “It happened right by me.”
Other protesters reported injuries after the clash, including bruises and broken bones, and said police used pepper spray and a Taser and fired beanbag and sponge rounds to subdue them, according to The Bismarck Tribune.
Thursday saw the largest number of single-day arrests since protesters, who call themselves “land protectors,” set up several camps in the area in April in opposition to the pipeline, which they say poses a risk to the local Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply and important archaeological sites.
Protesters say they were beaten by police with batons. Arrested protesters were held in temporary holding cells at the Morton County Law Enforcement Center, which some described as “dog kennels.”
“It’s a cage, it’s a big-ass cage,” Stefan Silk, 25, told VICE News over the phone on Monday. Silk, who is from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said police hit him twice with a baton before his arrest and locked him in a cage with 10 or 11 people. He said he was locked in the cage temporarily and then processed. He said officers wrote the number 230 on his arm, kept him overnight, and released him the next day.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office told VICE News there were six temporary holding cells that matched that description, each at least 10 by 14 feet in area. Police said the cells had been installed for use in “mass arrest situations” because the correctional center only has room for 42 inmates. Protesters had access to bathroom facilities, meals, and water, and any medical issues were addressed on site, the sheriff’s office said.
A video of Silk’s arrest posted on Facebook on Friday has been viewed 2.7 million times.