BISMARCK-A viral video that appears to show masked men verbally attacking men related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests has triggered an investigation.
A Facebook profile called Shiye Bidziil, identified in blogs as Dean Dedman Jr., a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in South Dakota, shows video shot at 4:22 p.m. Monday at the Ramada Inn in Bismarck. The video, which has been viewed on Facebook more than 1.2 million times, shows Bidziil and another man referred to as Matt sitting in a vehicle near the lobby entrance. The men try to leave but are blocked in-a gray vehicle in front of them and a maroon pickup behind.
The video shows two men who have covered their faces approaching the blocked vehicle. A man with a skull mask tells the protesters to go home, using obscenities.
"Us North Dakota people are going to f--- you up," the masked man yells.
Bidziil tells Matt to drive away, but Matt says he can't since the vehicles are blocking his way. The masked man continues to tell Bidziil he knows who he is and they will follow him. The masked man continues to threaten the men in the vehicle.
"You threaten us," the masked man yells in the video as Bidziil asks someone to call police. "You threaten our law enforcement. You threaten our people."
The other man, who is shown dressed in camouflage, sunglasses and a face mask, stands outside the vehicle, recording the confrontation.
Another video shot by an unknown man who identified himself as a guest at the hotel shows the confrontation from another angle. As the videographer starts recording, the man in the skull mask approaches him. The masked man tells the videographer "nice phone" before apparently trying to grab it and saying, "Let me see that phone."
The masked man is shown throwing snow at and chasing the hotel guest before speeding off in the gray van.
As Matt and Bidziil pull their vehicle over, the camouflaged man gets into the maroon pickup. Another man comes outside, stands in front of the pickup and places his hand on the pickup's hood in an effort to stop it from leaving, but the the pickup drives on before the man gets out of the way.
The video was published to Facebook a day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not approve an easement that would allow the construction of the pipeline under Lake Oahe. Energy Transfer Partners had planned to route the 1,172-mile pipeline under the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
It's unclear what prompted the confrontation, though Bidziil and police reports indicate the masked men were following him around town.
The Bismarck Police Department acknowledged in a news release issued Wednesday officers were called to the Ramada Inn for the altercation, adding it is investigating the report as a case of reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.
"Officers met with a witness who stated he saw the altercation in the parking lot of his business (the Ramada Inn)," the release said. "Two other witnesses reported being struck by a vehicle."
Police said suspects have been identified and are being investigated, though no charges have been filed, Bismarck Police Officer Pat Renz told the Herald.
Police have not been able to contact the victims, Renz said. He said the department knows who they are but declined to name the victims in the case.
Attempts by the Herald to reach Bidziil were unsuccessful.
Bidziil has been critical of the pipeline on social media and in online news stories. Posts on his Facebook page insinuate North Dakota law enforcement may have been involved in the confrontation. The incident garnered a response from international hacking group Anonymous, which also has been critical of how law enforcement has handled the protests.
Police are aware of rumors the suspects were police officers but determined those rumors to be false, according to the release.
"Another individual has been identified and targeted on social media for his believed involvement in this case," the release stated. "At this time, we have no reason to believe he was involved in the altercation."
Renz said he is not aware of any "personalized attacks" against protestors like the one at the Ramada Inn that have been reported to the police.
Anyone with information on the confrontation should contact the Bismarck Police at (701) 223-1212.