When Donald Trump signed a series of executive actions on Tuesday designed to restart construction on the Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, the news was met by waves of condemnation from environmental groups and activists across the United States.
For the law enforcement agency responsible for much of the ongoing violence against the NoDAPL protesters at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota though. Trump's move isn't cause for alarm—it's reason to celebrate. And that should make anyone involved in the Standing Rock protests very, very nervous.
"The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is monitoring the area of the camps in the event that protesters choose to gather in opposition to the executive action," explained a press release by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz.
"While the department does not release details of its operational plans and strategies or confirm the number of law enforcement it has available to respond at any given time, the department does have plans to respond and deal with any potential protest activities that may become unlawful," the release continued. "This is prudent when it comes to what the department does and how it prepares for situations."
Translation: "We're watching you, and we're ready to crack some skulls."
But that's nothing compared to the scariest part of the MCSD's statement from Sheriff Kirchmeier:
I would like to remind any protesters to please remain peaceful and lawful in your actions. Protesters have a right to take a position on the pipeline, but they do not have the right to break the law. To introduce rule of law within the camp, we will be asking the Trump administration for much-needed law enforcement support and public safety resources, requests that were ignored by the last administration. North Dakota residents expect us to hold these unlawful actors accountable; even the Standing Rock Sioux tribe – who has hosted the protest camps – have asked the protestors to leave out of fear that their presence could pollute the waters they claim to protect. This is not about the pipeline or the protests, it is about the rule of law.
A few things to note.
First: The emphasis on "rule of law" is straight out of Donald Trump's Republican National Convention speech, in which he promised to be a "law and order" candidate. The White House website now includes language to that effect, insisting that "our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter."
Second: Over the past year of protests at Standing Rock, law enforcement has employed a number of extreme tactics in response to NoDAPL activists. These include the use of rubber bullets, chemical irritants, concussion grenades, LRAD sonic weapons, and water cannons in freezing temperatures.
Given what's already been used against protesters, the potential for more "much-needed law enforcement support and public safety resources" necessary to "introduce rule of law within the camp" is chilling.
While protests at the Dakota Access site have largely calmed in the weeks following the Army Corps' of Engineers' decision to deny the easement necessary to continue construction, Trump's support for the project virtually ensures renewed—and reinvigorated—action on the part of anti-pipeline activists. As the Indigenous Environmental Network's Kandi Mossett told me yesterday in response to Trump's executive action, "expect pushback."