Standing Rock, ND - In a heartening display of unity and solidarity, and as a show of resolve in the face of Energy Transfer Partners statement that they WILL complete the DAPL without rerouting the pipeline, U.S. veterans and water protectors marched to the 1806 bridge, which was the site of a violent confrontation between police and water protectors on November 20.
After the announcement by the Army Corp of Engineers, denying the easement, police vacated their post by removing their police tanks, LRAD sound cannons, and other vehicles that had been stationed at the bridge since the confrontation took place.
Since the time of the violent attack, the police erected numerous concrete barricades to prevent people from accessing or crossing the bridge. Because we have lost contact with our reporter on the ground, it's unclear as of this writing if police plan to retake the bridge, which is a strategic choke-point between the protest camps and the DAPL construction area, as the march is ongoing.
During the confrontation that took place on the bridge, on November 20, police brutalized and attacked non-violent water protectors -- then attempted to lie afterwords and shift blame for the violence onto the protestors. Due to the attack, a tribal elder was put in critical condition, with another woman left permanently blind in one eye after being shot in the face with a tear gas canister. Hundreds were left injured from the police attack, and the Morton County Sheriff's Department now faces a class action lawsuit for excessive force over the incident.
As we previously reported, during that attack the heavily militarized police began firing water cannons, flashbang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets on water protectors trapped on the bridge. Following a brief confrontation with police, in which military vehicles were reportedly set alight by provacateurs, and ultimately cleared from the roadway by water protectors, heavily armed police in riot gear kettled water protectors on a bridge and began brutalizing those trapped.
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Police began firing tear gas canisters in an attempt to clear people from the bridge near the Oceti Sakowin encampment — and when water protectors kicked those canisters back at police to avoid the crippling gas, several small fires ignited near the side of the road. Witnesses said water protectors — not law enforcement — then proceeded to put out the flames; but police from multiple departments took the opportunity to crack down on the activists, in what appeared to be retaliation.
Trapped on the bridge on both sides by this veritable army of police, water protectors, including children, stood their ground on the bridge — the only options available to inhale the noxious tear gas or trample one another to escape. Following the deployment of tear gas, the situation rapidly escalated — thanks to officers having far too many tools at their disposal.
After the volley of tear gas, officers inexcusably began shooting water cannons at water protectors kettled on the bridge — in temperatures hovering around 26 degrees Fahrenheit — making hypothermia and frostbite an immediate danger.
The bridge assault on the captive group happened amid a total media blackout — only a single Facebook Live video, filmed by Kevin Gilbertt, was the only live feed of events unfolding. The already spotty internet availability has also been cut by law enforcement repeatedly during similar clashes, likely in coordination with TigerSwan, the private military contractor coordinating intelligence at Standing Rock
To now see the unity of water protectors and military veterans marching side-by-side to reclaim the bridge is not only a symbolic victory but a strategic one as well, as the bridge is the access point between the construction area and the camps.
Make no mistake that the strategic de-escalation by pro-DAPL forces will not be accepted the water protectors, which is seen as exactly the sleight-of-hand move it is, and that the fight against the DAPL will continue. The easement denial was in many ways is an attempt to derail the growing protest movement as it reached critical mass with the arrival of thousands of veterans.
Please share this story to let the American public know that fight against DAPL is not over!
*Update - Tribal Elders formed a human chain and stopped the marchers from accessing the bridge as they approached.