Molotov Cocktails, bridge burning, and activists say DAPL security fired weapon into crowd
By C.S. Hagen
CANNONBALL – One footstep at a time, law enforcement pushed activists south of their “line in the sand,” overrunning the “Treaty Camp,” and arresting 117 by early evening.
Approximately 250 activists held firm, singing native songs, burning sweetgrass and tobacco, against heavily armed law enforcement. Some chained themselves to approaching machinery. Others yelled back at an officer on a megaphone, who, according to the Indigenous Environmental Network, was telling activists to “stop fighting amongst themselves” and to “stop shooting arrows even if they were fake.”
By late afternoon, at least one activist was shot with a Taser in the face, activists reported; others were sprayed with pepper. By nearly 5 p.m., activist and medicine maker Sacheen Seitcham, of the West Coast Women Warrior Media Cooperative, was hit in the chest and in the knee by beanbag rounds fired by law enforcement, she said on her Facebook page. By 6 p.m., Seitcham reported law enforcement started throwing percussion bombs and smoke grenades. Shortly after 6 p.m., Seitcham reported two trucks were on fire, and Governor Jack Dalrymple reported the camp was cleared. Nearing 7 p.m., activist Francine Podenski reported that her 15-year-old nephew who had been shot off his horse was missing.
Nearing 8 p.m., activists started two fires on the Backwater Bridge, and are throwing Molotov Cocktails at law enforcement, the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services reported. Activists reported that a DAPL security employee shot at them with an AR15, the employee’s vehicle was overrun and burned.
“I’m standing here in front of tanks and armed police,” Seitcham said, “and they are advancing on us and trying to run us down. They almost ran an elder over.
“They say they don’t want to hurt us, but we don’t believe them. We’re making our stand for clean water.”
The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services reported one private person was run off the road and shot in the hand, and a woman who was being placed under arrest pulled a .38 caliber revolver and fired three shots, narrowly missing law enforcement officials. A total of ten shots were reported in the area, according to Amy Fong, public information officer for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.
The camp’s clearing day came one day after Hollywood movie star and activist Mark Ruffalo visited the site.
“You have a corporation and a state who’s working on behalf of a corporation to hurt our people. They’re militarized,” Ruffalo said to CNN. “This is not an emergency, this is not a national emergency. These are peaceful protesters.”
The company was asked weeks ago to voluntarily stop construction by the federal government and President Obama, and yet it hurries toward the Missouri River. “And Governor Dalrymple of North Dakota, if there’s blood on anyone’s hands, it’s on his hands.
“Let me tell you that people are really getting hurt there. It’s scary,” Ruffalo said.
By midafternoon, Humvees and other armored vehicles had infiltrated “Treaty Camp,” which is land the activists reclaimed on Sunday, October 23 under their own eminent domain actions. The land formerly belonged to the Cannon Ball Ranch, and was sold quietly to Dakota Access Pipeline, Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported. The purchase was a move some Peace Garden State officials deem questionable. DAPL crews are closing in quickly on the easement along the Missouri River, and although the U.S. Corps of Engineers has yet to give the oil company permission to construct on their lands, Kelcy Warren, Energy Transfer Partner’s CEO, has sworn repeatedly that the pipeline will be built on time.
Activists were resolute in not giving an inch of ground, but they were slowly pushed back. By 6:30 p.m., Dalrymple reported the camp was cleared. Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported activists shot twice at law enforcement.
“To the best of my knowledge we’ve had no serious injuries,” Dalrymple said in a press conference. “The situation has been well handled from start to finish. The really important point is that the sheriff’s office made it very clear that they were being asked to voluntarily go to a different location that is not private property. They had more than ample time yesterday and today to do that. So, those that did not go obviously did not intend to go and we had to deal with that as we have.”
“During the course of moving protesters south, law enforcement officers used a long range acoustic device (LRAD), which transmits a high-pitch tone and is used by law enforcement to disperse crowds,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported. “In addition, they they have had to deploy pepper spray due to protesters throwing projectiles at officers and refusing to comply with officer’s orders.”
For the activists, the “line in the sand” was their last stand.
An officer on the megaphone continuously shouted orders for activists to back up, not to approach officers or they would be arrested or sprayed with pepper. Some activists shouted threats, but were reminded to stay peaceful, stay in prayer. A bonfire was lit before noon, which halted law enforcement’s advance.
“The protesters are not being peaceful or prayerful,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. “Law enforcement has been very methodical in moving ahead slowly as to not escalate the situation. However, the protesters are using very dangerous means to slow us down. Their aggressive tactics include using horses, fire and trying to flank us with horses and people.”
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier’s threats against the activists are not empty.
“Morton County has entrusted me to uphold the law and that is exactly what I intend to do,” Kirchmeier said. “Yet I am being asked by outsiders and millionaire Hollywood actors to let agitators and rioters walk onto private property, destroy equipment, and endanger lives. And, so-called environmentalists are asking me to turn my head and allow this to happen. We have patrolled the county and enforced the law because our number one priority is public safety, separating the unlawful actors from legal protestors.
“This is not about the pipeline. This is not about those who wish to legally protest. This is about the rule of law.”
A message from Shailene Woodley, also a Hollywood movie star and an activist who was arrested by Morton County Sheriff’s Department, strip-searched, and plead not guilty this week to misdemeanor charges, called for support of Standing Rock.
“We must hold firm – those at Standing Rock and we around the planet. This is just the beginning. Not an end. They are losing. The peaceful protests are working, the hate and attacks of the police and military are turning more people against them each minute. We need to continue to document and share the stories as each emerges, even as we stand with Standing Rock.”