Since August, 411 people have been arrested in connection to Dakota Access Pipeline protests, including several freelance and independent journalists.
Last week, Adam Schrader, a freelancer based in New York, was arrested in the midst of a protest that took place at the front line camp off of Highway 1806 in Morton County, where militarized police forced the protesters south toward the main camp.
Protesters had set up roadblocks on the highway and lit tires and nearby Dakota Access construction equipment on fire. On Thursday, 141 people were arrested, including Schrader, on charges of endangering by fire or explosion, maintaining a public nuisance and engaging in a riot.
Schrader said he was arrested shortly after he witnessed officers holding cans of pepper spray. He said he went back to his rental car, put his camera and voice recorder on the front seat, then went back to the "front lines" and asked an officer about the use of pepper spray.
He was arrested a minute later. He said the officer who arrested him yelled loudly, "Resisting arrest! Resisting arrest!’” Schrader said he was initially told he was going to be charged with resisting arrest, but later saw his charges were changed.
He said he was placed in ill-fitted plastic zip-tie handcuffs, taken to Morton County Jail and then transferred to Mercer County Jail, where he stayed until Saturday.
Schrader said he arrived at the protest camp last week with a photographer.
His rental car was impounded last week, and he said items were taken from his locked vehicle, including a $400 voice recorder that he was primarily using that day to cover the protest. He has since filled out a police report with Morton County.
“I wasn’t able to do my job,” Schrader said by phone Monday, near the main protest camp where he's still gathering information. "It took away my ability to report.”
Donnell Preskey, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department, said vehicles impounded Thursday — 70 to be exact — were not searched by police, and no evidence was taken from any vehicle.
Other journalists have faced criminal charges after covering pipeline protests, including Amy Goodman, who covered an altercation in September between pipeline opponents, private security guards and their dogs at a Dakota Access construction site. The prosecutor brought a riot charge against her last month, which was subsequently thrown out by a judge.
Two journalists with Unicorn Riot, a nonprofit educational collective, were also arrested September at a protest near Glen Ullin. Nicholas “Niko” Georgiades and Christopher Schiano said they were wearing press badges and had a microphone.
Georgiades said officers warned them of trespassing, and they followed their orders but were still arrested.
"They 100 percent knew we were press," Georgiades said.
When it comes to detaining journalists along with protesters, Preskey said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier's "stance has been don’t violate the laws."
“Everyone was given the same directions, and journalists were treated just like anybody else. If they were committing a crime, breaking the law, they were arrested," she said.
Lucy Dalglish, dean of the journalism school at the University of Maryland and former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she's not surprised.
"Situations like this, everybody's really nervous. Everybody's tense. Everybody's just waiting for somebody else to behave really badly, and they're scared," she said.
Dalglish recommends journalists follow police orders and stay away from people who are committing acts of violence.
"A police officer sees a situation where rocks are flying or somebody is getting punched, they are not going to take the time to look at the press pass around your neck and say, 'Oh, you,'" she said.
"Basically, if you're told to get out of the way, get out of the way. If people are pulling out sticks and stones and bricks .... whatever you do, do not bend over and touch anything," she said.
Schrader said he intends to follow up with articles and further research police actions.
“I’ve never seen actions by police like this,” he said. “It’s like something you’d expect from a totalitarian regime.”
Caroline Grueskin contributed to this story.
(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)