The owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), hired over a half dozen security companies to work with law enforcement officials to protect the pipeline against vandalism, arson, and other acts of eco-terrorism.
Security company TigerSwan had been brought in to coordinate and supervise around six separate security companies that ETP had initially hired. TigerSwan was hired by ETP to manage security at the protest sites along DAPL. These security sites included the famous Standing Rock protests.
TigerSwan is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business based in Apex, North Carolina. Founder James Reese served in the elite Delta Force unit, the United States Army’s special forces, serving in the Army for 25 years. He was an adviser, commander and operations officer during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a 1,172-mile-long underground oil pipeline in the United States that begins in northwest North Dakota and continues through South Dakota and Iowa to Patoka, Illinois.
As TigerSwan security employees began to arrive in at the Standing Rock protest site, protesters began showing up in the camps calling for violence and engaging in increasingly menacing rhetoric. The FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Bureau of Land Management all participated in the security operation.
Extra security for the pipeline was necessary because some protesters were committing arson and other acts of destruction against construction of the pipeline.
For example, on July 24, 2017, left-wing activists Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya announced that they were responsible for setting fires to the pipeline and destroying valves. The two referred to their actions as "peaceful." They wrote, "On election night 2016, we began our peaceful direct action campaign to a Dakota Access construction site and burned at least 5 pieces of heavy machinery in Buena Vista County, Iowa. . . . We recognize that our action wasn't much, but we at least stopped construction for a day at that particular site." Like Jeremy Scahill, publisher of the The Intercept, a liberal online news site that claimed it had retrieved leaked internal documents from TigerSwan, both women were members of the Des Moines Catholic Worker organization.
The two women learned how to cut through the pipeline with a special type of torch, but at one point torched a hole through a part of the pipeline that had oil in it, thus spilling the oil and causing environmental damage. They wrote, "Later, in the first week of May we attempted yet again to pierce a valve located in Wapallo County, IA with an oxy-acetylene cutting torch. It was at this time we discovered oil was flowing through the pipe."
Local law enforcement agencies, led by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, had to deploy militarized gear and weapons at the Standing Rock protests due to the rising incidence of violence along the pipeline.
In April 2016, Standing Rock Sioux tribe elder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard created the camp as a center for resistance to the pipeline. By the summer, the number of protesters grew to thousands of people.
In September 2014, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal (SRST) Councilman David Archambault II held an initial informational meeting between the SRST and Dakota Access Pipeline representatives. At the beginning of the meeting, Archambault indicated the tribe's opposition to the project within treaty boundaries, stating, "So just that you know: this is something that the tribe is not supporting." Additional SRST representatives voiced opposition and concerns about the pipeline.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe wrangled in court with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over construction of the pipeline through the tribe’s lands. Eventually, newly-sworn-in President Donald Trump approved the pipeline after the Obama Administration had halted construction.
In February 2017, the Standing Rock protest camp was officially razed and shut down. The final holdout protesters were arrested.