Standing Rock demonstrators against the Dakota Access pipeline and journalists covering the resistance are once again facing violence from security agencies emboldened by the North Dakota state legislature's attempts at criminalizing dissent.
Last week, live-streaming journalist Jon Ziegler, also known as Rebelutionary Z, became one the latest targets – as both a member of the media and a protester – of the Morton County Sheriff's Department’s relentless repression.
After live-streaming for about an hour as the police rained down rubber bullets and clouds of pepper spray on protesters on the south side of the Backwater Bridge, Ziegler himself was shot.
“They just aimed at my fucking camera,” he exclaimed as he filmed, then called for a medic to treat what later turned out to be a severely broken finger.
The Backwater Bridge, just north of the Oceti Sakowin camp, is the main access point for demonstrators receiving supplies such as food and medicine. Since October, it has been barricaded by police attempting to cut off the demonstrators’ life-lines to smoke them out.
Cops have stayed on the north side while protesters have remained on the south side. Last week, authorities broke that unofficial truce when they entered the demonstrators’ side to confiscate their teepee.
After demonstrators quickly began building another one, cops tried stopping them with rubber bullets. This led to an hours-long standoff, according to the Daily Haze, culminating in the authorities trespassing onto their side a third time.
“They’re firing on people for no reason at this point,” Ziegler narrated as he live-streamed the assault. “They’re on sovereign territory.”
Shortly after, amid yells from both sides, a voice from the police’s side can be heard yelling Ziegler’s name. That’s when he is shot twice with nonlethal rounds appearing to aim at his camera.
Ziegler was not the only one injured.
Another unidentified protester was left with a gaping hole in his leg after reportedly being shot at close range with a rubber bullet. Several others have also been treated by medics at the Oceti Sakowin camp, the Daily Haze reported.
Authorities seem to have resumed their violence after being emboldened by a series of proposed state bills targeting protesters.
The most recent one suggested shielding drivers who inadvertently hit, injure or kill pedestrians blocking traffic. Another one wanted to criminalize adults using masks at protests – which many demonstrators have done at Standing Rock in order to shield themselves from the freezing temperatures – similar to a previous law aimed at the Ku Klux Klan.
“It's shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their right to protest in a public space,” Tara Houska, National Campaigns Director for Honor the Earth, told NBC News. “These (bills) are meant to criminalize the protests with no real concern for constitutional law.”
According to a statement posted to their Facebook page, Morton police have made a total of 624 arrests since Aug. 10 of last year.
On Saturday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal council unanimously voted on a resolution giving demonstrators until Feb. 19 to evacuate the camps.
“I’m worried that our most recent behavior, these actions on the bridge, are going to give reason for the incoming president to do away with what we worked so hard for, in getting the (Environmental Impact Statement),” Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II told about a dozen protesters and council members who attended the Saturday vote.
The tribe wants protesters to begin clearing out between Jan. 30 and Feb. 19.