North Dakota Sheriff Advising South Dakota and Nebraska on Keystone XL

Omaha, NE – The Omaha World-Herald is reporting that Kyle Kirchmeier, the sheriff of Morton County, North Dakota, is providing consultation services to law enforcement in areas where the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline (KXL) is expected to be built.

Kirchmeier is known for commanding law enforcement actions in North Dakota to defend the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) against resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other indigenous peoples who say DAPL threatens their land and water, and that it was approved without their consent.

Actions taken by law enforcement under Kirchmeier’s command have included beatings, the use of large amounts of pepper spray and teargas, firing rubber bullets at close range, deploying officers in armored military vehicles, surveillance and harassment of protesters, arrests of journalists reporting on protests, and spraying crowds with water cannons in below-freezing temperatures. Kirchmeier is also named as a defendant in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit, along with several other North Dakota law enforcement officials.

Many law enforcement agencies from outside of North Dakota deployed to Morton County under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) to help repress demonstrations against DAPL. Some agencies sent personnel there with the intention to study mass protest and learn lessons that they could apply at home, should they find themselves in a similar situation. Reviewing police documents from deployments to the area near the Standing Rock Reservation has led some to conclude that law enforcement used the DAPL protests as a “laboratory” to test crowd control techniques.

Documents obtained by MuckRock from the Wyoming State Patrol (WHP) detail WHP’s takeaway lessons, in which they suggest improvements they could make if they had to deal with such a situation again. These included increased Mobile Field Force (riot police) training, conducting more surveillance on protest organizers, studying how to disable lockbox devices, and having a police propaganda media outlet that would counteract “false stories that different people put out on social media and the false reports from so called media such as Unicorn Riot…”

The northern leg of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline was denied a permit last year by the Obama administration, but was approved by the Trump administration earlier this year. Many common threads exist in the conflicts surrounding the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, a dynamic, it seems, that is not lost on law enforcement:

Sheriff Kirchmeier said that several other states, including South Dakota, have asked him to relay what he learned from the Standing Rock protests, and said that eventually he expects to talk with those from Nebraska … Kirchmeier said some tactical lessons were learned in confronting protesters, but he declined to share them ….


…Law enforcement and county officials interviewed say there have been some discussions about what might be coming, but they declined to say whether any protest-control training is underway.


Taylor Gage, a spokesman for [Nebraska] Gov. Pete Ricketts, said that commenting on such security preparations would “jeopardize” those plans.  The Nebraska State Patrol is well aware of what happened in North Dakota, patrol spokesman Mike Meyer wrote in an email, and regularly trains for “contingencies” such as protests and natural disasters.


Meyer said that recent purchases by the patrol of the sort of nonlethal devices used in crowd control—such as impact sponges and rubber-ball blast and pepper spray grenades—were not out of the ordinary, and are part of the agency’s regular equipment purchases.” – Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska law enforcement, Keystone XL pipeline foes prepare for possible protests

While the northern leg of KXL has not yet been built, the southern leg of the pipeline became operational in January 2014. However, before its completion, KXL’s southern leg experienced many delays and setbacks in Texas and Oklahoma due to direct actions carried out by the groups Tar Sands Blockade, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, and others.

Both those for and against the KXL expect large protests and direct actions to take place against its construction, in ways that will echo both the earlier resistance to the southern leg of Keystone XL as well as the more recent, and much larger, opposition to the DAPL.

Indigenous water protectors recently founded a new pipeline resistance encampment in Eagle Butte, SD to prepare to take action against Keystone XL, alongside other “spirit camps” which already exist directly on the proposed route for the KXL.

If South Dakota and Nebraska face large pipeline protests like those against DAPL, they may follow the example of North Dakota and Morton County by declaring a state of emergency, which allows them to deputize out-of-state law enforcement to assist them under the EMAC.

Both Nebraska and South Dakota sent law enforcement officers to help the Morton County Sheriff quell the #NoDAPL movement. Documents from the Nebraska State Patrol, acquired by Unicorn Riot through a public records request, also show that Nebraska lent North Dakota several aircraft to help conduct aerial surveillance on water protector encampments near the Dakota Access Pipeline route. Some of the emails we obtained also seemed to indicate ongoing informal discussions between North Dakota Highway Patrol and Nebraska State Patrol about #NoDAPL protests, i.e. a back-channel relationship which may already be coming into play in preparations for KXL protests.

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Below is Unicorn Riot's coverage of the #NoDAPL anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle from early summer 2016 to present:

Watch our feature-length documentary, Black Snake Killaz: A #NoDAPL Story

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