Standing Rock activist Red Fawn Fallis recently accepted a federal plea deal in order to avoid facing trial for the attempted murder of a police officer that took place at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest, according to the website unicornriot.ninja. Authorities claim that Fallis fired three shots at them during her arrest while protesting against construction of the North Dakota pipeline in October 2016. Her supporters describe the charges as inconceivable.
“None of us could believe it. We just collectively burst into tears,” Eryn Wise, a 26-year-old Native American protester opposed to the $3.7 billion pipeline, told The Guardian in 2016.
“We are all terrified.”
Another protester, Lauren Howland, 21, said Fallis personally came to the front lines to wheel injured activists out during one violent protest. She continually urged youth activists to stay “peaceful and prayerful” and never resort to violence, Howland said.
Fallis was arrested along with over 140 others when police stormed an encampment of protesters during an intense, large-scale raid, in October 2016. Many of the youth activists at Standing Rock looked to the 37-year-old Fallis as a mother figure who advocated peaceful, nonviolent tactics.
“Anyone at the camp that needs help, she’s always been the one to stand up,” said Mia Stevens, a 22-year-old member of the International Indigenous Youth Council, who has known Fallis from childhood. “She wouldn’t do nothing like that. Where is the proof?”
The North Dakota police painted a picture of Fallis as a violent and rebellious agitator. None of their officers were injured in the standoff.
“It wasn’t because she was trying to aim away from law enforcement; it was just our lucky day,” stated Capt. Bryan Niewind, who said he was standing two feet from Fallis during the incident. “Law enforcement showed restraint … We did not fire upon her.”
Most of the Dakota Pipeline protesters in camp with Fallis doubt that she would even carry a gun. The native elders at Standing Rock had admonished their own participants against arming themselves.
Police response consisted of a heavily armed assault that involved the use of military tanks, riot gear, pepper spray and tear gas. In addition to condemning North Dakota’s local police for their severe use of force, human rights groups voiced concern for questionable jail conditions.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office refused to make public any video footage of Fallis’s arrest or photos of the firearm in question, a .38-caliber revolver.
“That is all evidence that will not be released until the investigation is complete,” a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office told The Guardian. Fallis entered a non-cooperating plea agreement and pled guilty to two federal crimes – “Civil Disorder” and “Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Convicted Felon,” according to the website unicornriot.ninja. Judge Daniel Hovland sentenced her to a total of 57 months, which includes the 18 months she already spent in jail, awaiting trial.
Maintaining her innocence, Fallis and her supporters had previously stated that they did not believe she would receive a fair trial. They claim that the prosecution has been allowed to withhold key evidence.
Judge Hovland’s pretrial rulings limited Fallis’s defense team by prohibiting them from citing treaty rights or mentioning other political issues at the heart of the fierce debate between sacred tribal lands and powerful oil corporations.
“No matter where I go from here, I am going to continue going forward,” Fallis said in court before her sentencing, according unicornriot.ninja. “I wanted to move forward in a positive way.”
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