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General News    H2'ed 2/4/17

Legitimizing Plunder at Standing Rock Part II

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The answers to some of these questions will impact how fines are assessed against the defendants in this case. Residents of Fort Yates and other tribal members will be viewed in the same light as out-of-state co-defendants and the State does not seem inclined at this writing to consider the special circumstances of tribal members or whether or not they benefitted from fundraising.

(Note: Shortly after this article was published, Morton County authorities announced a list of over 300 websites ostensibly collecting funds for Standing Rock.

"Tattoos for Standing Rock" netted $144,605. And still people freeze in the snow on the reservation.)

Let's take a look at the State's "Demand for Defense Cost Particulars."

By law, North Dakota can require each defendant with a court appointed attorney to fully reimburse the State for the full costs of their defense following a conviction, assuming a conviction takes place.

The State assumes that the purpose, rightly or wrongly, of the DAPL protests is to drain the State of resources. To date the State maintains it has spent $17 million. The State also maintains that all of the protests are done to "create fake news"" to bring attention, celebrities, both passionate and very gullible people, and finally money--all to be focused on multiple issues of national discontent."

This is the heart of the State's plan to collect attorney fees. This again raises questions that go far beyond this jury trial. Who, exactly, is benefitting from crowd source finding? Are out-of-state filmmakers, celebrities and activists prolonging the protest through a dangerous winter when the Tribal Chairman has asked everyone to go home for their own safety? Will Tribal members who were arrested be penalized because of the actions of out-of-state actors and outrageous fundraising schemes? How can monetary damages be assigned fairly in court? Why should an enrolled tribal member have to pay attorney fees, if convicted, because the State has identified fundraising by out-of-state actors that the defendant will never benefit from?

The money angle has been raised outside of the courtroom. When Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II initially asked protestors to go home after the Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant an easement under Lake Oahe in early December, he suggested that some who were urging people to stay were benefitting from donations.

But how does this financial quandary affect the annual budget of the tribal government, which has borne the burden of support for the main Oceti Sakowin Camp?

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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