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Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging police used excessive force at Dakota Access Pipeline protest

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor dismissed the case Wednesday, Dec. 29, finding that officers acted reasonably during an hours-long standoff with protesters near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Nov. 20, 2016.

Vehicles and people crowd a highway and ditches
A protest camp north of Cannon Ball, N.D., during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests is pictured in 2016.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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BISMARCK — A federal judge has taken the side of police in a civil lawsuit brought by Dakota Access Pipeline protesters who alleged officers from Morton and Stutsman counties used excessive force on them during a demonstration in 2016.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor dismissed the case Wednesday, Dec. 29, finding that officers acted reasonably during an hourslong standoff with protesters near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Nov. 20, 2016.

Protesters alleged that police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and exploding munitions into the crowd, injuring more than 200 in attendance. Officers also sprayed water over protesters on the frigid winter night, according to news reports .

Lawyers representing the Morton County Sheriff's Department, Stutsman County Sheriff's Department and Mandan Police Department said outnumbered officers were worried for their safety and had to use force to disperse the protesters they believed were trespassing.

Morton County Assistant State’s Attorney Gabrielle Goter said the defendants are pleased by Traynor's dismissal of the case, adding,"law enforcement was permitted to use less lethal force to protect themselves and others from violent protestors."

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Rachel Lederman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the ruling "legitimizes launching an hours-long barrage of freezing water, explosives and highly dangerous munitions into a crowd of demonstrators."

The plaintiffs have not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling, said Natali Segovia, another of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

The Dakota Access Pipeline transports crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to central Illinois. The 1,172-mile pipeline crosses under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, which has cultural and historical significance to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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