Lawsuit: North Dakota officers used ‘violence’ on protester
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A man who was injured during protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in January 2017 has filed a lawsuit accusing North Dakota law enforcement of using “excessive violence.”
Marcus Mitchell, 24, filed the lawsuit Thursday against Morton County, the city of Bismarck and state Highway Patrol officers. The lawsuit says officers fired shotgun beanbag rounds at peaceful, unarmed protesters, including Mitchell.
One of the beanbag shots shattered the orbital wall of Mitchell’s left eye, wounding his cheekbone and the skin near his eye, according to the lawsuit.
“The bean bag round became lodged into his eye, with strands of the round protruding out of his left eye socket,” the lawsuit says.
Bismarck spokeswoman Gloria David said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit. Highway Patrol spokesman Wade Kadrmas declined comment, citing pending litigation. A Morton County official didn’t immediately respond to the Bismarck Tribune’s request for comment Thursday.
Mitchell, a Navajo tribal member who lives in New Mexico, said he underwent treatment but still suffers problems with vision, hearing and smell.
His lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and law enforcement accountability.
Mitchell was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and obstruction of a government function. The charges were later dropped, according to the MacArthur Justice Center, which represents Mitchell.
Law enforcement has denied using excessive force against the thousands of pipeline opponents who camped near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in southern North Dakota in 2016 and 2017 to protest construction of the $3.8 billion project. The protests resulted in 761 arrests over a six-month span.
Mitchell said in a statement that his case is not just about him but all indigenous people.
“This case means holding those accountable for the genocidal acts done upon indigenous people and their lands,” Mitchell said.
Two other excessive force lawsuits have been filed against law enforcement related to the protests.
Both stem from a violent November 2016 clash in which protesters tried to push past a blocked highway bridge near their main encampment. Authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprays.
Police said protesters were throwing objects including rocks, asphalt and water bottles at officers.
North Dakota has meanwhile launched its own legal action related to the law enforcement at the protests. The state sued the federal government on Thursday to recover $38 million in policing costs.