Hundreds of trials for activists who stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline have seen the courtroom but only two have received jail time so far. A judge in North Dakota has sentenced two water protectors to jail time after they were convicted on misdemeanor charges over an October 2016 protest at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline.
Twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Simon, a school teacher from New Mexico was sentenced to serve 18 days in jail for obstruction of a government function. Mary Redway, a 64 year old retired environmental biologist from Rhode Island was sentenced to six days in jail for disorderly conduct. The sentences were imposed by Judge Thomas Merrick despite the fact that the prosecution had not recommended the two serve jail time.
Journalist Sara Lafleur-Vetter, who was filming for The Guardian at the time of her arrest, was acquitted on misdemeanor charges stemming from her reporting on the protest on October 22. Hundreds of unresolved criminal cases related to the months-long resistance at Standing Rock remain open. Hundreds of cases have been
The Water Protector Legal Collective- an indigenous-led legal team defending activists arrested during the months-long Dakota Access Pipeline controversy is currently fighting over 427 criminal cases in North Dakota, according to the legal team’s website. Another 272 cases have been dismissed due to lack of evidence of any crime being committed. Morton County has put out warrants, dismissed cases, recharged water protectors, and failed to send mail or contact arrestees regarding scheduled court dates-all resulting in new warrants being issued for accused water protectors without their knowledge.
Three water protectors are currently imprisoned while awaiting trial: Red Fawn Fallis, Little Feather and Dion Ortiz. Fallis, the most seriously charged water protector, was arrested at Standing Rock on October 27, 2016 accused of possessing and discharging a firearm as she was being restrained by police near construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Fallis, the organizer of the “Frontline Camp” was arrested during the October 27th raid on the camp when over 300 police officers—some carrying M16 rifles and clad in flak vests advanced to remove all remaining protestors. Four officers left formation and tackled Fallis to the ground, holding her face down. Four additional officers assisted in trying to handcuff her as she was being tased. In the course of the raid, the police fired tear gas and concussion grenades and peppered the water protectors with rubber-tipped bullets and bean bag pellets, causing dozens of injuries. Fallis was held in a Rugby, North Dakota jail until her transfer to a halfway house in Fargo in June 2017. Her jury trial was originally slated to begin on July 17, but it has now been postponed until December 5.