The image above might remind you of the iconic image of a young woman in a summer dress, who calmly stood her ground against heavily armed police, during July protests against racial discrimination in Baton Rouge.
In a similar — yet considerably less viral — act of protest, Caro Gonzales of Olympia, Washington, prays in front of police officers, dressed in riot gear, during a demonstration in St. Anthony, North Dakota, against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline aka the DAPL.
While the protest, started off as, and still remains primarily, a collective call for the protection of water against oil contamination by multiple Native American nations, it has become a much bigger and broader struggle for fundamental human rights over the past couple of months.
Despite the fact anti-DAPL activists, or as they prefer to be called “water protectors,” have been non-violent, dozens of them arrested ever since the protests began in August, for offenses including alleged rioting to criminal trespass.
But it’s not necessarily the arrests that are causing alarm among the demonstrators — it’s the manner of arrests and the police response in general.
Reports of beatings and strip-searches of those arrested are prompting concerns of police abuse at anti-DAPL protest sites.
“When getting booked at the jail,” the Albuquerque Journal reported, some of those arrested “were all strip-searched, forced to ‘squat and cough’ to demonstrate they had nothing hidden in their rectums, then were put in orange jumpsuits.”
Protester Kellie Berns told The Bismarck Tribune she received reports of people being pepper sprayed and beaten at the hands of law enforcement with officers “being more aggressive than in past incidents.”
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the DAPL, recently got a green-light to resume construction after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to halt the project.
As the project is all set to resume, tensions between the police and protesters is also increasing.