Yesterday evening, police used water cannons on peaceful DAPL protesters in freezing temperatures. The activists, who prefer to be called “water protectors,” have been protesting the completion of the 3.7 billion dollar Dakota Access Project — an oil pipeline that would run through North Dakota all the way down to Illinois, where it would connect with a pre-existing pipeline. The protesters, who include Indigenous Americans and environmentalists both, are occupying the government-owned land on which the final piece of pipeline in slated to be constructed, completing the DAPL. This land is within close proximity to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and is designed to run underneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri River — the main source of water for the tribe. The fear is that the pipeline could leak, polluting the water, as well as destroy Sioux land and culturally significant locations.
The protesters, who have been peacefully demonstrating and camping out since September, attempted to occupy Highway 1806 and the Backwater Bridge just north of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in an effort to remove blockades put there by the police. The blockades, they claim, prevent emergency services from easily accessing the camps, and add half an hour to the time it takes an ambulance to reach the closest hospital. “The purpose of this action was to do something to remove that barricade because it’s dangerous,” said a spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network Jade Begay told The Guardian, “That barricade poses a danger not just to everyone at the camp, but also to Cannon Ball and other communities that are south.”
The protesters began trying to remove blockades and demonstrating Sunday night at 6pm when the situation escalated into a standoff with the police. The police began spraying the 400 protestors with water from water-horses (the strong hoses the firefighters use). People on the scene also report that they were being tear gassed, had rubber bullets fired at them, and were subject to percussion grenades. They were soaked in water while in 25 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to a very real danger of hypothermia and frostbite.
Footage of the water cannons being used on protestors, courtesy of Indigenous EnviroNet, can be viewed here.
The Morton County Sherrif's Department claims that all of these actions are “non-lethal actions”, but Dave Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, has said that this is a clear escalation of violence:
"They say these are non-lethal weapons, but a water cannon in freezing weather is lethal. Using concussion grenades with tear gas can be lethal."
A Press Release written by the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council on the state of the protest and an account of the injuries inflicted can be read here.
If you would like to lend assistance to the Standing Rock Water Protectors, you can buy something off of their Amazon Wish List here. Many of the products listed are necessary for the protesters to continue to camp out in the coming harsh North Dakota winter. You can also contact the legislators and government officials who are responsible for sending in the police to Standing Rock — just a simple phone call or letter can add pressure to the lawmakers and administrators responsible, and let them know that the world is watching. You can also join in on a peaceful Standing Rock Solidarity protest (they are occurring at schools, colleges, and cities around the country and are often organized via social media), as well as support the boycott of TD Bank and CitiBank — the two largest investors of the Dakota Access Project.
The Standing Rock protestors have a right to their land, to their culture, to their way of life, to autonomy, and to safety. The DAPL is a clear transgression of all of those, as well as the police action taken against them. All evidence shows that they are peaceful protestors who are being treated with lethal force. Stand with the Water Protectors, and aid them in their fight.
Image Source: Morton County Sherrif's Department
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