The dying days of President Obama’s administration are being deeply shamed by the actions of the authorities against the First Nations and others fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
And the extreme violence from the authorities seems to be deteriorating by the day.
There is growing outrage and condemnation as more and more first-hand accounts and footage emerge of water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas and even stun grenades being used against some 400 water protectors on Sunday night and early yesterday morning.
Some 300 people were hurt after being hit by either water, gas, grenade or rubber bullet. An estimated 27 needed hospital treatment. Reports from legal observers suggest that several people were unconscious having been hit by rubber bullets. There were so many casualties that the local school gymnasium had to be opened for emergency relief.
There are graphic photos online of serious injuries incurred by the protectors. If you want to see the extent of some injuries go here, but the images are distressing.
In freezing temperatures, police fired cold water to prevent the protectors removing blockades on the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806, near the camps they have been occupying for months. In response, activists lit fires to try and keep their soaking companions warm. This seems to have further inflamed tensions.
Dallas Goldtooth, one of the organisers, said: “Folks have a right to be on a public road. It’s absurd that people who’ve been trying to take down the barricade now have their lives at risk.” He called the Police tactics “an excessive and potentially deadly use of force”.
Indeed, there were harrowing reports of violence against the water protectors:
One activist from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, Black Elk said, “All of a sudden there were these bright, blinding spotlights, so you could see each other, but you couldn’t see [the police]. Every once in awhile you could hear someone scream who had been hit by a rubber bullet.”
“I was tear gassed over 15 times, which made it hard to breathe and left my face burning for hours,” recalls Cheyenne, a young native woman from Michigan. “I got hosed down with a water cannon in freezing temperatures leaving me hypothermic, and I was slammed into a barbed wire barricade out of panic caused by the police after a flash grenade was thrown and caught fire to a field.”
Another young native man from the Ojibwe nation said “He shot me with a rubber bullet right in the belly button, and when I showed him that he had hurt me, he just smiled and shot both my kneecaps”.
On Sunday night, the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council called on authorities to stop using water cannons against the protesters, saying the below-freezing weather could cause hypothermia and criticizing the “potentially lethal use of these controversial methods against people peacefully assembled.”
A surgeon with the Healing Council, Jesse Lopez, from Kansas City said: “We are standing back in a state of disbelief. I maybe could see pepper spray, maybe rubber bullets, maybe tear gas, but water cannons? That’s done to inflict deliberate, severe, life-threatening harm.”
As usual, the local sheriff’s office spun a total different story that shows what misinformation the authorities are releasing: “We have not received any reports that can be verified of protesters that were injured.”