Responding to a call for aid from the state of North Dakota, the Ohio State Highway Patrol sent 37 troopers to that northern plains state this weekend. They departed from Dayton on Saturday.
Clashes between security forces and indigenous protesters increased in North Dakota last week, culminating in the arrests of more than 140 protesters. Local police reportedly used pepper spray, rubber bullets, sirens and other measures to forcibly evict an encampment of protesters that the police said were trespassing on private property belonging to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Our mission there is just to provide support for the state of North Dakota,” said Lt. Robert Sellers, public affairs commander for the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “We’ll be providing safety and security for everyone. And we’re going to help law enforcement there protect property and to protect everybody’s rights.”
Sellers told Scene that the 37 troopers were pulled from all across the state on a volunteer basis. The number of troopers was determined, Sellers said, as that which would not impact regular operations.
Sellers said he hasn't heard much in the way of protests to the OSHP's decision to send personnel, but a Change.org petition was mounted
in the immediate aftermath. It noted, among other things, the discrepancy between the treatment of native protesters and the Oregon gunmen who occupied a Federal wildlife refuge last winter.
"The militarized police crackdown on a peaceful gathering of unarmed indigenous people in North Dakota happened on the same day," read the petition, "as white men who carried out an armed 41-day seige of a nature preserve in Oregon were acquitted of all charges."
The patrolmen from Ohio will be working alongside other state police and private contractors, one of whom is an outfit called TigerSwan
, a security firm that has received millions of dollars in government contracts for surveillance and security work in Iraq and Afghanistan.