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9 Apr 2020

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Standing Rock Indigenous water protector sues North Dakota police for abuse of civil rights

LDC attorneys representing Comanche Water Protector and videographer Eric Poemoceah filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the North Dakota federal court against defendants Morton County, North Dakota; Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier; (then) Sheriff Paul Laney; Tom Iverson (formerly lieutenant, now captain with N.D. Highway Patrol); and Bismarck police officer Benjamin Swenson... On February 22, 2017, Eric W. Poemoceah was peacefully demonstrating against DAPL. He was unarmed... dozens of militarized police officers charged at Mr. Poemoceah without any warning as he filmed police on ND State Highway 1806. Bismarck police officer Swenson tackled Mr. Poemoceah and threw him to the ground, engaging in overt police brutality that resulted in significant injuries to Mr. Poemoceah, including a broken pelvis... Throughout the interaction, as with other Indigenous Water Protectors in the Standing Rock demonstrations, the police officers belittled, dehumanized, and insulted Mr. Poemoceah.

... “This lawsuit will not only uphold the rights of Indigenous Water Protectors to vigorously exercise their First Amendment rights to demonstrate against the fossil fuel industry and defend Native sovereignty, but will also draw a clear line in the sand for police who are paid to protect future fossil fuel calamities,” said Lauren Regan, CLDC Executive Director and one of the attorneys who filed the case.