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Standing Rock Litigation

Entire block: Highway 1806 south blockade

Thunderhawk versus County Morton

Read the full amended complaint, Thunderhawk versus County Morton , submitted on February 1, 2019.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 30-inch diameter pipeline designed to transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude, fracking oil per day from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota to refineries in Pakota, Illinois. The pipeline was originally intended to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck. However, due to public outrage over the risk of water supply contamination, pipeline company Dakota Access LLC relocated the pipeline to cross the Missouri River less than a mile north of the Standing Rock Reservation border. The tribes and their supporters opposed construction of the pipeline through this area and raised numerous concerns about the risks of the pipeline and the process by which it was approved on its current route.

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The area that DAPL now passes through includes a number of sites of significant cultural, historical and spiritual value to the Lakota. The Missouri River is also the sole source of water for the two neighboring Lakota tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, as well as for many other indigenous and non-indigenous peoples throughout the region.

From April 2016 to October 2016, one of the key places for speaking, gathering, and praying for these people was the wide field edge of Highway 1806 near where the pipeline was supposed to cross the highway, an area that has long been open to the public is accessible. Among other things, as a thoroughfare that could be safely driven (and became regular) without hindering or disrupting traffic. Plaintiffs regularly engaged in a range of expressive and religious behaviors in the country, including hanging prayer ribbons and signs within sight of passing drivers, and speaking and praying individually and in small, medium, and large groups.

The defendants and the law enforcement agencies and individuals under their control carried out a determined and concerted campaign to suppress the speech, gathering and prayer of tens of thousands of people who were traveling or wishing to travel through this area to oppose the Construction of DAPL. One of the main methods the defendants used to suppress constitutionally protected behavior related to the No-DAPL movement was to patrol the streets in such a way as to prevent travel, speeches, gatherings and prayers without DAPL.

As of October 24, 2016, Defendants closed a significant portion of Highway 1806 to all Water Protector travel - including the entire section of Highway 1806 adjacent to the specially identified sacred and ceremonial sites, as well as the DAPL construction that is the main center the plaintiff had been “speech, prayer, and meeting for the past few months.

The defendants have given various reasons for the need for this barricade, but concede that their target was the water conservationists. For example, Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for Morton County's Sheriff's Department, said of this barricade: We are trying to build a barrier between the protesters and this private property. On the other hand, two press releases on October 28th and 31st gave a different reason for the barricade: The bridge would remain closed until all damage to the structure has been assessed by the bridge engineers.

Sub-block: checkpoint on the north side of Fort Rice

This road closure was aimed only at Water Protectors: residents of Fort Rice were allowed to drive south on Highway 1806, as were DAPL employees. In fact, DAPL employees were allowed to use the blocked part of the road for the duration of the block. The section of Highway 1806 from the Cannonball River to Fort Rice remained completely closed - at least for Water Protectors - until March 15, 2017. From October 28, 2016 to early March, the defendants immediately maintained a reinforced concrete and accordion wire barricade on Highway 1806 north of the Backwater Bridge. This barricade created a physical boundary for any drive on or around the bridge on or around Highway 1806 (but it did not prevent drive on the bridge itself). The defendants also enforced an outright travel ban on water guards - including on foot, on horseback, and in all-terrain vehicles - on the closed section of Highway 1806 and regularly arrested water guards who approached the barricade on foot.

The defendants' five-month absolute ban on prohibiting Defendants from traveling on approximately nine miles of this public priority route violated Plaintiffs of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the amendment to travel between and within the state and, as a result, placed a significant burden on plaintiffs in their search after necessary medical care, when shopping for supplies (and otherwise in stores), when meeting, speaking and interviewing the media, when collecting and reporting the news and when visiting family members.

The travel restrictions also prevented plaintiffs from exercising their First Amendment right to assemble, speak, and pray in the area in question, including, but not limited to, nearly nine miles of public road leading to numerous sacred and adjoining ceremonial sites, as well as parts of the public road near the path of the pipeline. The road closure also unnecessarily encumbered the First Amendment rights of journalists or supporters wishing to join or visit the camps, thereby restricting access of the camps and the Standing Rock Reservation to the press as well as the press to the camps and the Standing Rock Reservation.

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Speaker in the Standing Rock Litigation Panel Julian Brave Noisecat and Wasté Win Young with the law students of the Native American Law Students Association.

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