Statement by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch today released the following video statement after phone calls to Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II, in which she discussed ways to reduce the potential for violence surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and to begin a dialogue that fosters mutual understanding and public safety:
“As winter begins to take hold in the Great Plains, I want to take a moment to speak to you about the protests surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline – and about the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment to supporting local law enforcement; to defending constitutionally guaranteed speech; and to maintaining strong and vibrant relationships with American Indians and Alaska Natives.
“For the last several months, the Department of Justice has been monitoring the situation in North Dakota closely, and we remain in close communication with law enforcement officials, tribal representatives, and protesters in an effort to reduce tensions and foster dialogue. We continue to support the protestors’ constitutional right to free speech, and we expect everyone involved to exercise restraint, to refrain from violence and to express their views peacefully.
“Let me stress that violence is never the answer and that all of us have a responsibility to find common ground around a peaceful resolution where all voices are heard. Our first concern is the safety of everyone in the area – law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike.
“To that end, the Department of Justice has offered community policing resources to local law enforcement in North Dakota, and we have made strenuous efforts to open lines of communication and dialogue between law enforcement, tribal leaders and protesters. This includes the active engagement of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS Office – and the deployment of conciliators from the Community Relations Service to North Dakota. Those efforts will continue in the days ahead.
“In addition, today, I have directed senior department officials from the Office of Tribal Justice, the COPS Office, the Community Relations Service and the local U.S. Attorney to continue to address concerns that have been raised; to re-deploy to the region as needed; and to help support constitutional law enforcement, prevent violence, and to preserve peace and liberty in the protest area.
“We recognize the strong feelings that exist about the Dakota Access Pipeline – feelings that in many instances arise from the complicated and painful history between the federal government and American Indians. We will remain committed to working with all stakeholders to enforce the law; to maintain the peace; and to reach a just solution to this challenging situation.”
The Attorney General’s video statement regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline protests can be viewed here.