#NODAPL Supporters Face Harassment in Bismarck/Mandan Area

Comfort Inn in Bismarck, North Dakota refuses to serve American Indians involved with #NODAPL

Comfort Inn in Bismarck, North Dakota refuses to serve American Indians involved with #NODAPL

Published November 29, 2016

by Darren Thompson

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — #NODAPL supporters voiced through social media that they were being targeted and harassed by law enforcement and local businesses throughout the Bismarck and Mandan areas.

Early Tuesday morning, the State of North Dakota issued a statement saying that it will stop any vehicle that appears to be heading towards camp with supplies and food, stating that Governor Dalrymple signed of an “emergency evacuation” order on Monday due to inclement weather. Officers will warn them that they are violating the governor’s order and can be fined up to $1,000.

Anyone driving a vehicle that looks like it may be heading towards camp, perhaps with a #nodapl bumper sticker, is subject to being stopped and questioned by police.

While on his way to the University of Arizona to speak on a panel on the Dakota Access Pipeline, International Indigenous Youth Council member Layha Spoonhunter voiced he was targeted by Bismarck Municipal Airport Law Enforcement. Dressed in a Pendleton jacket, Spoonhunter noticed several Morton County Sheriff’s Department deputies noticeably pointed at him and held a conversation while monitoring his activity causing him an uneasiness as a consumer of services only available in the area.

“I felt like I shouldn’t have been there, that they were trying to intimidate me,” expressed Layha Spoonhunter. “They know I’m a member of the indigenous media covering the pipeline in Standing Rock and that I support NODAPL.”

While escorting other visitors to the Bismarck Municipal Airport, Indian Country Today Editor Gyasi Ross was pulled over during inclement weather with hundreds of vehicles stranded throughout the city. Attending the Mni Wiconi Benefit Concert over the weekend, Ross said when the officer approached his vehicle that an anonymous phone call reported Ross’s vehicle almost ran another person over.

“When the officer came to my window, he said the reason I was pulled over was because of a phone call stating I ‘damn near ran someone over,’” said Ross. “I asked if they recorded information about the person calling and, of course, they didn’t.”

“These are simply scare tactics that aren’t new to people of color,” continued Ross. “It is simply intimidation towards a group of people based on their views and, of course, their color of skin.”

Another group of #NODAPL supporters of taking a break from camp were staying at a Comfort Inn in Bismarck and decided to stay another night due to weather conditions only to find out their reservations for an additional night were cancelled due to questioning by employees of whether or not they supported or opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We decided to go to Bismarck to get a break from camp and to find a nice warm place to stay,” said Kanti Devi. “And with the weather prohibiting safe travel we decided to stay another night. It was then that one of the employees called our room asked if there was any way we were involved with the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

“I’m not one to lie,” continued Devi. “And when I told him that we were involved, it was then that he expressed they will refuse us service and canceled our reservation.”

Kanti Devi is of Hawaiian/Filipino and Scandinavian descent from Seattle, Washington and has been camped at Oceti Sakowin for the past two months and decided to head to Bismarck for a warm place to refresh her group. Describing that she has some color to her skin, she expressed that this is the first time in her life she has been discriminated based on choices over skin color.

“Although it is really disappointing to be treated unfairly because of an issue, we choose to respond with love and simply left,” said Devi. “We are at a time where disrespect should not be allowed and realize this is only one person. We are safe in another location.”

Darren can be reached at 605-545-5470 or darren@darrenthompson.net

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