What was already a tense situation in Standing Rock, North Dakota — the scene of the #NoDAPL protest — grew worse Sunday night when police allegedly struck the protestors with water cannons in freezing temperatures. The official line from the Morton County Sheriff's Department, however, was that protestors had allegedly set fires, and thus needed to be extinguished, calling it an "an ongoing riot." On social media, Twitter users countered that the tear gas canisters set off by the police had in fact started them. Though it's difficult to affirm one account based on photographs alone, water cannon photos of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Standing Rock appear to support the protestors' version of events.
Footage from a drone is perhaps the clearest picture of what happened. In the footage, can see the water cannon aiming at protestors in addition to nearby fires, and at one point the water is aimed upwards, seemingly to bring down the drone. Standing Rock Sioux tribe member LaDonna Brave Bull Allard told The Guardian that the protestors "were [being] attacked with water cannons."
She continued, "It is 23 degrees out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people."
A spokeswoman for the Indigenous Environmental Network told The Guardian that 167 people were injured and seven were taken to the hospital.
The Militarized Police
The Water Cannons
The police and protestors have come into more conflict since the onset of winter temperatures, BuzzFeed reported. The protestors have tried to improve their campsites to face the cold, angering local police. Friday Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told them to go home in a statement:
Protestors at the camps are erecting unlawful structures in an attempt to fortify for the coming winter weather, but their actions are both illegal and likely insufficient to protect them from the elements. We've seen that many of these protestors are not from North Dakota and may not be familiar with the harshness of our winters, and we urge them to leave the camps and seek appropriate shelter for their own health and safety.
Plus when you combine the elements with water cannons, hypothermia is even more of an issue. In a video posted to Twitter, a Standing Rock EMT said in addition to treating wounds from rubber bullets, the medical team's main focus was finding ways to keep people warm. If you would like to support the protests, consider giving a donation.