Water protectors who attempted to remove two broken-down military trucks from Highway 1806 in North Dakota on Sunday night were met with a militarized response from law enforcement that included the use of tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and more crowd-control munitions.
Independent news site Unicorn Riot broadcast live Sunday night when the skirmish happened and reported that more than 160 people were injured, including a 13-year-old girl who was shot in the face by law enforcement, two people who suffered cardiac arrest and many others who reported injuries from rubber bullets.
As previously reported on The Root, resistance to the $3.8 billion pipeline has been strong from the beginning. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe argues that pipeline construction is desecrating sacred ancestral lands and that the pipeline itself endangers the Sioux’s major water suppliers: Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. Demonstrations in North Dakota have been going on for months and have resulted in a construction halt in the area immediately surrounding Lake Oahe. Recently, the company constructing the pipeline said it would move ahead with plans to drill under Lake Oahe.
Tensions came to a head Sunday evening when a group of about 400 protesters attempted to move past a barricaded bridge toward construction sites for the project. The Washington Post reports that as the temperatures in Cannon Ball, N.D., dipped into the 20s, police in riot gear sprayed the water protectors with hoses mounted on top of an armored vehicle. The water protectors were trying to remove the vehicles they say are blocking emergency services from reaching the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
According to the Post, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said that by 8:30 p.m., 400 people had attempted to “breach” the bridge and had set multiple dozens of fires in the area. The sheriff’s department said that the protesters were “very aggressive” and were trying to “flank and attack the law-enforcement line.”
Dallas Goldtooth told the Associated Press that the fires were started to warm protesters who had been sprayed with water in the freezing cold.
A Unicorn Riot journalist was shot with a rubber bullet while documenting what was happening Sunday evening. The journalist's press badge was destroyed.
The sheriff’s department says that the water cannons were used to control the crowds and put out the fires set by protesters.
“There are multiple fires being set by protesters on the bridge and in the area of the bridge,” department spokeswoman Donnell Hushka told CNN. “We have fire trucks on the scene. They are using their fire hoses to put out the fires, wet the land around so fires don’t spread, and they are also using water as crowd control.”
Energy Transfer Partners still does not have a permit to drill under the river or Lake Oahe. The Guardian reports that it went to court Nov. 15 to have a judge force the government to let it start drilling immediately.
“They’re using that barricade as an excuse for us not to be able to lawfully protest,” Frank Archambault, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from Little Eagle, S.D., told the Guardian. “We got word that the drill is now on the pad so tensions are high right now.
“We have a very harsh day coming up now,” Archambault added. “In my family, we never celebrated Thanksgiving. It was always a day of mourning for the day that genocide began on this continent. This all just goes to prove what we’re talking about.”