Highway 1806, just north of the main protest camp at Standing Rock, became another battle zone last night as North Dakota police began firing tear-gas, concussion grenades and water cannons at demonstrators, live social media accounts reported. They are also using sound cannons known as LRAD, short for Long Range Acoustic Devices.
As a result, more than 400 demonstrators against the $3.6 billion Dakota Access pipeline are reportedly trapped on the nearby Backwater Bridge. There, they must either “endure the tear gas or trample each other,” according to one Facebook Live feed from Kevin Gilbertt. The protesters have tried to move forward, but have been blocked by a police barricade that has included police vehicles, cement blocks and razor wire, according to reports.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at one point shared Gilbertt’s feed. He also used his own Tweeter feed to demand President Obama to take “all appropriate measures to protect the safety of the Native American protesters and their supporters.”
Unicorn Riot, an alternative media outlet, also reported that at least “one person...was badly injured after being shot in the head with a rubber bullet,” plus more than 150 others injured “in the last few hours.”
Injuries have included lung and eye irritations from mace and tear gas, cardiac arrests, and even hypothermia as police continued using water cannons in the below-freezing weather “for hours,” Unicorn Riot reported through their social media feed between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. One 13-year-old girl was also reported to have been shot in the face.
RT News reported that a statement from Morton County, where the protest is taking place, has reported that one of the approximately 400 protesters had been arrested. The statement also claimed protesters have attempted to start multiple fires at the scene, describing them as “very aggressive.”
However, according to a Unicorn Riot reporter’s live-streamed video: “There were no fires prior to any water cannons. The only fires I have witnessed have been ... bonfires ... (Police) continue to try and shoot water cannons over the line here to put out these fires, which basically are keeping people alive.”
According to the same statement by Morton County, everything began around 6 p.m. on Sunday, when demonstrators attempted to remove burnt-out military vehicles using a pick-up truck, at which point police responded by firing tear gas.
The demonstration is just one of the latest ones staged against the pipeline by Indigenous land and water defenders of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others, along with supportive environmentalist activists since spring 2016. They say the pipeline threatens vital nearby water resources and crosses through sacred sites.