Topic: Indigenous

Protesters in Dakota blasted with water in freezing conditions

By Taiha Molyneux

The Head Medic of the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota says 167 people including 3 elders were injured when those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline were sprayed with what were described as "water cannons" by armed authorities yesterday.

Medics also say 7 people were hospitalised with severe head injuries. 

A video has surfaced on Facebook documenting events as they took place. Graham Biyāāl who has been involved in the movement for a while clearly shows unarmed people being sprayed indiscriminately with water.

In a statement released by the Camp of the Sacred Stones, authorities began spraying people with water cannons as they attempted to remove burnt military vehicles chained to concrete barriers blocking traffic on Highway 1806.  

The statement says attempts were made to move the barriers in order to improve access to the camp for emergency services.

Sacred Stone Camp claims these attempts were “met with tear gas, an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device), stinger grenades, rubber bullets, and indiscriminate use of a water cannon with an air temperature of 26 degrees Fahrenheit.”

The Morton County Sheriffs Department issued an initial statement on its Facebook page describing the event as a “riot.”

“Law enforcement is currently involved in an ongoing riot on the Backwater Bridge, north of a protest camp in Morton County. Protesters in mass amounts, estimated to be around 400, are on the bridge and attempting to breach the bridge to go north on highway 1806. Protesters have started a dozen fires near the bridge.”

In a press conference streamed live on KX News, the Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier disputed the use of the term "water cannons." he claimed, "No we don’t have water cannons they were fire hoses. Some of the water was used to repel some of the protestors activities that were occurring."

When asked if it was a common practice to use powerful hoses as a crowd control tactic, Kirchmeier responded, "not normally, but in this circumstance, it was the best option that we had at that point." The Department was also questioned over the temperature at the time the hoses were used and asked if they considered this before using the hoses.

Kirchmeier said, "Yes, its a consideration, but the number one thing as we are going along here with the safety of everybody involved we're just not gonna let people or protestors in large groups come and threaten officers."

The Department claimed one officer was injured during the incident.

Supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux have condemned the activities of authorities in the area and claim the use of force has been excessive and a breach of human right. Those in opposition to the pipeline say they have displayed no acts of violence towards officers and the video that has surfaced across the globe is proof of this.

The full video posted by Graham Biyāāl  who was identified by Dallas Goldtooth as one of the people who ran over 1100 miles from Arizona to the Oceti Sakowin camp in Standing Rock can be viewed below.

The Camp of the Sacred Stones also shared a video in its statement which documented events as they unfolded.

The full statement and further video can be viewed by clicking on this link.