There reached a point when the Dakota Access protest became less about debating the merits of pipeline routes and more about mixing it up with cops.
That was when the danger spiked for officers and their families. While protesters were fueling worldwide outrage and fundraising over allegations of police brutality, an aggressive cohort of agitators was terrorizing the families of law enforcement officers with threats of death, rape and arson.
“There were threats made to us, mostly that they were going to come burn down our houses or rape us while our husbands were gone,” said Allison Engelstad, who is married to Jon Engelstad, a sheriff’s deputy in Morton County, North Dakota.
The Dakota Access protest came with sobering evidence of an increasingly violent activism culture that has raised the stakes in recent years from peaceful activism to vandalism to aggression against police. Other evidence are assaults on officers at events such as Black Lives Matter and Resist Trump.
David Horowitz, a conservative author and researcher on left-wing movements, said political history shows that the rash of leftist violence is more par for the course than out of character.
“There were really two movements in the ‘60s. One was the hippie movement, which was benign. That was the summer of love,” he said. “And then there were the leftists, who were violent. They were revolutionaries.”
But what Dakota Access reveals is how well-meaning movements with peaceful intentions can quickly turn treacherous when the anti-cop narrative comes into play.