FACT CHECK: Security Personnel Did Not Set Fire at North Dakota Pipeline Protest

CLAIM: The Albuquerque Journal reports that “someone set some army trucks parked on a bridge on fire” at the Standing Rock pipeline protest in 2016, and that “some thought it was the work of security details dressed as protesters.” The Journal also quotes an activist photographer as saying, “There’s this huge issue of who set those trucks on fire” because security “wanted to keep their jobs; they were making $1 million a month.”



The Journal quotes the claims uncritically but fails to mention that seven people were charged with federal crimes in conjunction with the protest, including for setting the fire on the bridge.

From an Associated Press story in October:

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The fourth of seven people charged with federal crimes stemming from protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota has been sentenced to a year and four months in prison.

Twenty-two-year-old Dion Ortiz, who is from the San Felipe Pueblo reservation in New Mexico, was indicted with several others in February 2017 for a fire set on a country road bridge in October 2016.

The Bismarck Tribune reports that Ortiz reached a deal with prosecutors under which he pleaded guilty to civil disorder and the government dropped a more serious charge of using fire to commit a federal felony.

The record is clear: Federal authorities identified who started the fires and secured convictions. But for some reason the Journal included no information about the convictions and sentences for their crimes in this week’s story – even though the newspaper ran the Associated Press story cited above on its website.