For several months, the people of the Standing Rock Reservation as well as hundreds of supporters from across the nation, have been peacefully protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which directly threatens their water supply. But the demonstration quickly grew violent Sunday night (Nov. 20), after a clash between police and protesters. The alleged altercation ultimately resulted in authorities blasting a crowd of 400 protesters with heavy duty water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
The incident allegedly began in the evening after protesters moved a truck that was blocking a bridge which had been blocked off since late October, NBC News reports. According to reports and live video footage, police quickly began responding with excessive force, trapping protesters on the bridge. “They were attacked with water cannons, Standing Rock Sioux tribe member LaDonna Brave Bull Allard told the Guardian. “It is 23 degrees [-5 °C] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people.”
Drone footage showing water cannons being used on water protectors
— Petty Is Praxis (@rtyson82) November 21, 2016
Authorities said the use of the water cannons was initially due to demonstrators growing “very aggressive” and starting fires in the area, according to a statement released by the sheriff’s office. Law enforcement stated that it had utilized “less-than-lethal means” in order to “keep protesters from crossing the bridge” where construction was ongoing.
— Eduardo Samaniego (@EddyComunica) November 21, 2016
The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council later released a statement on Facebook, calling for the ” immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions.” “As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions,” the statement read.
Protesters have been camped out where the pipeline construction has been planned on the Dakota reservation since April 2016. Four hundred people have reportedly been arrested since the protest began, according to VICE. Celebs including Willow and Jaden Smith, Rosario Dawson, and more have shown support for the movement in recent months. Despite public outrage, construction of the pipeline will continue as planned. The Energy Transfer Partners, which are behind the pipeline, claim the company has taken enormous precautions to prevent any leaks from happening and say the pipeline is far safer than transporting oil via motor vehicles.
— Amir (@AmirAminiMD) November 21, 2016