Law enforcement unleashed percussion grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures on peaceful water protectors battling the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota late Sunday.
An activist’s drone captured the onslaught:
Drone footage showing water cannons being used on water protectors
— Carlton Banksy (@rtyson82) November 21, 2016
And Native American news outlet lastrealindians.com showed the scene from the ground, with water protectors peacefully standing and chanting “water is life” as they were soaked by a water cannon:
— lastrealindians.com (@lastrealindians) November 21, 2016
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s assault came in response to Indigenous activists’ attempts to clear away the husks of two burned-out cars on Highway 1806, which leads to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s main protest camp, said the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Dallas Goldtooth:
Independent outlet Unicorn Riot, which had reporters on the ground throughout the six-hour standoff, said that over 160 people were injured. Those injured included a 13-year-old-girl who was shot in the face by rubber bullets, two people who suffered cardiac arrest, and multiple cases of hypothermia as a result of the water cannons, the outlet reported.
“Water cannons. Rubber bullets. Mace. Flash grenades. It’s an army vs. unarmed people who only want to protect their water and graves,” commented Indian Country Today writer Ruth Hopkins.
Water protectors and supporters posted photos and updates from the scene on Twitter throughout the night:
An elder went into cardiac arrest as police shot w/water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, etc. for trying to clear a public road. #NoDAPL
— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) November 21, 2016
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 21, 2016
— Josh Fox (@joshfoxfilm) November 21, 2016
The astonishing show of force was only the latest in a series of violent assaults from law enforcement targeting the peaceful Indigenous activists taking a stand to protect their drinking water and sacred sites.
And this latest attack “comes at a difficult time for Indigenous activists at the camps,” as the Guardian writes.
“We have a very harsh day coming up now,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II told the newspaper. “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.”
Despite the sustained protest and violence from law enforcement, the pipeline construction company is still refusing to consider rerouting the Dakota Access Pipeline. “There’s not another way. We’re building at that location,” Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren told CBS News.
Activists and environmental groups are calling on President Barack Obama to step in and take action—before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Greenpeace spokesperson Mary Sweeters said Tuesday: “Law enforcement put people’s lives in danger last night as water protectors attempted to clear a path for emergency services to reach the camp. President Obama must step in to stop the pipeline and end the violence immediately. This is about standing up for Indigenous people’s rights and sovereignty. This is about ensuring Standing Rock’s survival by protecting its water supply and land. It is time to do the right thing before more damage is done.”