Class action suit filed against Morton Co. sheriff, LEOs, for excessive force on protestors

A class action suit was filed Monday against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against “Water Protectors” Nov. 20 at the site of the Dakota Pipeline Access protest.

The suit was filed by Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild in US District Court.

The class action suit, filed on behalf of persons who were injured the night of Nov. 20 and early morning of Nov. 21, seeks an immediate injunction preventing the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement from using impact munitions such as rubber bullets and lead-filled beanbags, water cannons and hoses, explosive teargas grenades and other chemical agents against protesters.

According to a press release from the National Lawyers Guild, beginning the evening of Nov. 20, officers from the MCSO and assisting agencies confronted Water Protectors at a bridge near the Standing Rock protest camp and within the boundaries of Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires or Great Sioux Nation) treaty lands.

The release said, without giving any warnings or opportunity to disperse, officers fired on them with “highly dangerous munitions, chemical agents, a water cannon and hoses in freezing weather.” The suit said more than 200 Water Protectors were injured.

“The Morton County Sheriff’s office not only violates the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters, but their actions highlight the long history of abuse against Indigenous peoples,” said Brandy Toelupe, WPLC lawyer. “From the beginning, governments have used their latest technologies to take land and resources from Native nations and oppress Indigenous peoples. Sheriff Kirchmeier’s actions make it clear that nothing has changed.”