MANDAN, N.D. — The propaganda war between Standing Rock demonstrators and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department was at full pitch Friday as about 20 Native Americans descended on police headquarters to deliver food and water to the officers inside.
The event was planned by members of the International Indigenous Youth Council and others protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and its planned path alongside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and its water supply.
Another organizer of the giveaway was Native Hawaiian Andre Perez, who has become a prominent figure in the pipeline protest.
Several members of the council prayed and sang songs outside the red brick municipal building, home to the sheriff’s department as well as the jail that has held many of the demonstrators who have clashed with police and private security.
“What we’re doing here today is showing the world that we will not become the oppressors who have oppressed us for so many years,” said Thomas Lopez, 24, who was among those previously arrested.
“We’re offering this water of life to show the Morton County Sheriff’s Office — to show the people who believe we’re here to hurt them — that we’re actually here fighting for your rights for clean water. We’re here fighting for your right for clean air.”
The supply delivery stemmed from a Nov. 22 Facebook post from a Bismarck radio station that solicited donations for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which has come under increasing scrutiny for its use of force against protesters.
Facebook Live Video From The Morton County Sheriff's Office
Topping the list of requests were “Thoughts and prayers for officer safety.” Other items included paper plates, batteries, energy drinks and cold weather headgear.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said earlier this week that his department would begin fining people for delivering provisions to the Oceti Sakowin Camp where thousands of protesters have congregated.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said the camp must be vacated by Monday.
Native Hawaiian activist Andre Perez was one of the main organizers of Friday’s event, wearing a shoulder camera to capture his interactions with the sheriff’s department.
He told reporters and photographers that the demonstrators, who call themselves water protectors, would not be providing the officers with energy drinks and sodas.
Perez said such drinks aren’t healthy. He then repeated a term that has become the rallying cry for the Standing Rock Sioux: “Water is life.”
“Even though they’ve been shooting people and throwing grenades at people and trying to hose people down in freezing weather, our goal is to teach,” Perez told the media. “We’ll educate the police on what humanity, compassion and love is all about. Despite their aggressions we’re giving them the supplies that they’ve requested from the public, because we are the public as well.”
Getting the supplies through the door wasn’t an easy task. In fact, Perez was greeted by an officer dressed in riot gear, including a helmet with a plastic face guard.
“It just shows their fear,” Perez said just before heading back to camp. “The youth and people are coming with food to give them and they answer the door in riot gear. They’re afraid.”
Morton County sheriff’s officials refused to talk about the food delivery.
They also wouldn’t allow members of the media inside the building to document the drop-off of goods, although some cameras were thrust through the door far enough to document at least one demonstrator giving a sheriff’s deputy a hug.
Shortly after the event, the sheriff’s department posted a thank you note on its Facebook page. The department has been using social media to write its own narrative of events as they play out at Standing Rock.
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