The purpose of this article is not to take a stance supporting one “side” over another, I will attempt to rationally describe the facts of the matter at hand as well as the rights both the police and protestors have under the United States Constitution in relation to this whole affair.
Two weeks ago the US Army and US Department of Justice released a joint statement announcing: “The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.”
What I did not know before reading this piece of news is that Indian Tribes had brought a federal lawsuit against the US Army for the construction of this pipeline. This is because it is the Army Corps of engineers that is assembling and putting together this pipeline. I did not realize the US Army had been subcontracted the job or that the Army could be sued by the public.
Despite construction the pipeline coming to a momentary halt, this has not stopped online news agencies from continuing to post headlines about police/protestor clashes in North Dakota – the over whelming majority of which are hyper-critical of the police’s use of force against seemingly peaceful protestors.
Last week I came across a letter from the Executive Director of Amnesty International, Margaret Huang, written to Loretta Lynch of the U.S Justice Department. The letter reads in part:
“While the protests against the Pipeline have been largely peaceful, in the past month, law enforcement officers – and specifically MCSD deputies – have repeatedly arrived at protests sites dressed in riot gear and armed with assault rifles. Videos of these interactions have captured officers pointing their weapons at protesters even though there was no imminent threat of death or serious injury to the officer or others, as required for the use of lethal force under international law, and likely in violation of department policy.”
The letter goes on to criticize the DOJ and North Dakota’s police for violating international law, for essentially banning people from participating in “peaceful protests” – which is recognized universally as a fundamental “human right.” However, Amnesty International’s appeal to international law, as opposed to US Law, is exactly why the organization has failed to make an impact on the situation and why their argument is essentially a mute point.
You see, the US Department of Justice was not established on, nor does it operate on behalf of “International Law.” The US DOJ was established to uphold the laws of this country and does not exist to care about the laws of country outside our nations border.
This fact may be hard for some people to digest, but it is just the fact of the matter at hand and I wish more people understood the situation better. So, in response to Amnesty International’s letter to the DOJ, I wrote a letter of my own to Amnesty International USA.
I did not write them to “troll” their letter or impugn their message, on the contrary, I wanted to share what knowledge I could to make a difference. The problem with Amnesty’s letter is that it is based within idealism, and if there is anything I have learned over the years it is that idealism is completely useless. Rather than write an emotionally charged letter over the situation to the DOJ, I think educating American citizens about their rights under US Law is far more productive in this instance.
Here is exactly what I wrote back to Amnesty International about their take on the Dakota anti-DAPL protests:
“There are several US laws you should be pointing out for the people whom attend events like this. First off, to really be considered a peaceful demonstration, not technically “a riot” type event or a random unorganized gathering for that matter, you need to get a permit to hold a public gathering in order to be 100% protected by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.
With that said, many of these incidents involving police and protestors appear to be violation of the 1st Amendment, in principal, and must be altered.
The language of the 1st Amendment almost literally applies to legislators (the Legislative Branch) and police are a different branch of government (the Executive Branch) – so it is a stretch in some ways to apply the 1st Amendment to the tactics/decisions of police departments/officers.
However, if these same departments are acting based on the orders of an elected official however, then you have a clear violation of the 1st Amendment here, the citizens Constitutional Rights have been violated, and the appropriate action should be taken in court (the Judicial Branch).”
Read More About Your Right To Peaceably Assemble and How The US Supreme Court Has Interpreted This Right To Date: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/peaceful-assembly/us.php
Earlier today I stumbled across a headline from The Waking Times entitled “This is the Man Militarized Police at Standing Rock are Working For.” As you might expect the article was written with an anti-establishment bias, but it does go on to discuss some fundamental truths behind the situation we are currently observing – as well as the powers at be behind all of this.
What I want to point out from this article is that these “militarized police” are being deployed by, and operating under the jurisdiction of “The State Parks and Wildlife Commission.” This is critically important to understand because this Commission is controlled by the Governors office and as explained by WhiteHouse.gov, “In every state, the executive branch is headed by a governor who is directly elected by the people.”
So, connecting back in with the logic of my letter to Amnesty International above, for as much as it might make people unhappy to hear, these police officers in North Dakota are absolutely operating within their jurisdiction and are not violating any citizens rights – as they are defined by the US Constitution.
The Executive Branch of Government is just not as legally susceptible to 1st Amendment violations as other Branches of Government are. Another fact I did not know before writing this article, the US Army is a member of the executive branch all the same as police.
Lastly, despite the emotionally charged rhetoric you are most likely hearing from the small segment of news organizations reporting on these events, not all of these protests or protestors can be considered “peaceful” – the word “peace” being fundamental to the process of “peaceable assembly.” For example, the picture below.
While I do not condemn people for their protests in North Dakota, or necessarily disagree with what they are attempting to accomplish, nor do I endorse some of the tactics being implemented by police there, everyone should be educated about their rights so that they can understand all of the factors at play here.
It is easy for some random blog’s or even an international humanitarian organization to make it seem as though peoples rights are being egregiously violated, when in fact the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution are being applied lawfully.
True information does good and it is important to have intellectual discussion about these matters in order to help people understand their rights. The better educated you are and the more facts you have, the greater the impact you can make.
This Content Was Created Under An Alt_Publishers License