North Dakota — On Thursday morning, a group of water protectors left the Oceti Sakowin camp and drove to the Bismarck-Mandan area to demonstrate against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in a few strategic locations.
Since boycotting the Big Banks funding the pipeline has met with success — Norway’s largest bank, DNB, recently pulled its assets from the project — the caravan’s first demonstration was to be held outside a branch of another Dakota Access financier, Wells Fargo.
However, as Unicorn Riot filmed, dozens of militarized, riot-gear-clad law enforcement officers from multiple departments had already taken up positions surrounding the bank branch when the water protectors arrived.
“Agencies present included Bismarck Police, Mandan Police, Fargo Police, Morton County Sheriff and Cass County Sheriff,” Unicorn Riot, which has thoroughly covered ongoing opposition to the pipeline, reported. “Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney appeared to be in command of the multi-jurisdictional force throughout the day’s events.”
Holding true to a pattern of escalating peaceful demonstrations into needlessly violent shows of force, as the water protectors approached the bank, several officers accosted and immediately arrested a man leading the march.
Just moments later, a group of officers grabbed another man from the group of water protectors and, as witnesses described, ‘immediately began dragging him across the ground, slamming him to the pavement, and striking him with their fists and feet.’
A Unicorn Riot reporter filming the attack narrated what was transpiring as officers not occupied with beating the man moved to block cameras from capturing the assault on film.
“This man’s head is bloody — they’re beating him,” he says, as several warrior cops use knees and arms to pin their victim on the cement sidewalk.
“This man is injured. He needs medical care,” the man implores.
As the struggle continues, the man screams in agony from the open wound and further strikes from the officers fists, knees, and boots. After viciously wresting the bloody man’s hands into cuffs, officers proceeded to place a controversial spit hood over his head — rather than calling for emergency services to render aid.
Witnesses then described Cass County Sheriff’s deputies forcing the man toward a waiting patrol car across the street, kicking, punching, and generally assaulting him for the duration of the arrest.
Right beside the waiting police SUV, at least a dozen riot police attempt to close ranks to prevent ‘video witnesses’ to their ongoing brutalization of the man. However, footage does capture several cops hoisting him into the air by his handcuffed arms, while an officer appears to knee him in the head.
Alarmingly, despite a non-stop barrage of commands being shouted through a bullhorn at the water protectors, the man can be overheard screaming for help, and pleading with police to stop the beating.
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“You dislocated my shoulder!” he screams in pain, “you dislocated my shoulder!”
Worse still, the man tells officers he’s a military veteran and is experiencing a panic attack — a condition exacerbated exponentially by the use of a spit hood.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, on scene that day, rebuffed witness questions as to whether the spit mask was akin to “hooding,” which violates international law, saying it was a “valid spit hood.”
While they pummel the veteran on the ground near the patrol SUV, Unicorn Riot reported, Cass County Sheriff’s deputies can be heard saying “stop resisting” and “stop reaching for my gun” — ‘catchall’ phrases law enforcement typically spout when making a contentious arrest, usually, it would seem, to provide an excuse for excessive force a court might later deem unjustified.
A solid ‘blue’ wall of additional officers encircles the skirmish on the ground and all of the activists on scene are threatened with arrest — though none of them are doing anything illegal and obviously aren’t interfering with the arrest.
In fact, the veteran repeatedly yells during the attack that he ‘didn’t do anything’ wrong, saying,
“I just picked a flower!”
Unicorn Riot spoke with multiple witnesses who backed up that claim, saying officers brutally arrested the man after he picked a flower and offered it to Sheriff’s deputies.
After the questionable and particularly merciless arrest of the flower-bearing veteran, demonstrators continued their peaceful march to multiple locations, including a federal courthouse where they demanded President Obama take decisive and swift action to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.
According to multiple unconfirmed reports, Unicorn Riot published their report and uploaded video of the bloody arrest the same day the incident occurred, but footage has yet to circulate because, as many people noted, Facebook appeared to flag the footage as either inappropriate or spam.
Displays of excessive and frequently inexplicable force have been perpetrated against the largely peaceful water protectors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters for several months. The Army Corps of Engineers recently shelved a decision to grant Energy Transfer Partners, the conglomerate of companies responsible for pipeline construction, the necessary easement to drill under the Missouri River.
But the already white-hot controversy over Dakota Access could explode in the near future — the National Guard announced plans to send additional troops to the area in coming days.
As Standing Rock Sioux and other Indigenous water protectors dig in their heels and prepare for a bitter winter, ETP obstinately refused to reroute Dakota Access to accommodate the rights of Native Americans.
With both sides standing firm and Obama’s White House tenure drawing to a close, the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline — and the fate of the water the Standing Rock Sioux promise to protect — remain completely up in the air.