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Why Is North Dakota Strip-Searching Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters Charged with Misdemeanors?

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Resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline has been met by an ongoing crackdown on water and land protectors by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. In recent weeks, there has been widespread use of strip search in the Morton County jail. Democracy Now! spoke with Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II about whether he had been strip-searched after he was arrested at a protest and with Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who also says she was strip-searched after she was arrested on August 11, taken to Morton County jail and charged with disorderly conduct.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we’re continuing our coverage of the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline and the ongoing crackdown against water and land protectors by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. One of the things that comes to light in recent weeks is the widespread use of strip search in the Morton County jail. On Monday, Democracy Now! broadcast live from just across the street from the Morton County Courthouse and jail, where I asked Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault whether he, the chair of his tribe, had been strip-searched after he was arrested at a protest.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you charged with?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: Disorderly Conduct.

AMY GOODMAN: So it’s a misdemeanor, low-level misdemeanor.

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you strip-searched?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this common that for disorderly conduct you’re strip-searched?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: I wouldn’t know, because that was the first time I ever got arrested. But, you know, when I was, I thought it was humorous, because I had to take all my clothes off, and then they wanted to check my braid for—and I don’t have a very thick braid for any weapons to hide, but so I thought it was pretty crazy and unnecessary to do a strip search and to check my hair. But I accepted. That’s how it was.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault. Another member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician who works on the reservation, also says she was strip-searched after she was arrested in August, taken to the Morton County jail and charged with disorderly conduct.

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: When I was taken to the jail, first I was taken by a corrections officer, transported from the protest site to the Morton County jail. And then, when they took me in there, you know, they had to take some basic information. And then, one of the things that they do is have you go into a small room, and there was a female officer there, and we had to—I had to take my clothes off, and then, I don’t know, basically—

AMY GOODMAN: Cavity search?

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: No, not a cavity search, but I had to squat and cough. That’s what she said. I had to squat and cough and then put the orange suit on.

AMY GOODMAN: So you were put in an orange jumpsuit?

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: Yeah, I was put in an orange jumpsuit. And then I was held there for several hours. And initially, you know, my family didn’t know where I was or didn’t—you know, they heard about it pretty quickly and were able to come and bond me out or bail me out. I don’t know what you call it. But I was in there for several hours.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it make you feel?

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: It made me feel—you know, it made me think about my ancestors and what had they gone through. And this was in no way a comparison to what we’ve survived before, so just made me feel more determined about what I’m doing and why I’m here.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, pediatrician and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

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