Protesters against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline have expressed dismay at a new slate of bills proposed this week by North Dakota’s Republican-led and largely oil-friendly state legislature that, if passed, could potentially upend their months-long protest movement.
The bills, motivated by residents’ frustration with the ongoing protests in the southern part of the state where the Oceti Sakowin camp is located, would make it a crime for adults to wear masks at protests — similar to the law that lasted for nearly 50 years that was aimed at the Ku Klux Klan — and exempt a driver from liability if they unintentionally injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway.
Another bill would require the state’s attorney general to sue the federal government to help cover some of the more than $22 million in state law enforcement costs incurred since the protests over the $3.7 billion pipeline began in August 2016. Critics say the project threatens ancestral Standing Rock Sioux land and the water supply.
For Tara Houska, a Native American environmental activist who has resided at the camp since August, the bills are “a direct violation of our First Amendment rights.”