The fallout from law enforcement’s genocidal attacks on Water Protectors on the 20th and 21st of November has left a wake of devastation that will be felt for years to come through pain, financial ruin, and a continuation of historical and intergenerational trauma. The Dakota Access Pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (which was recently acquired in a $20 billion merger by Sunoco Logistics Partners, L.P.) has become the main focus of environmental racism and genocide in the United States.
According to the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, 300 people were injured in the attack, sending 26 to the hospital in critical condition. Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old recent college graduate, may very well lose her arm due to this depraved use of force that was clearly aimed at her.
Wayne Wilansky, Sophia’s father, described what his young daughter has gone through in the wake of the attacks. Due to the closure on 1806, all EMTs had to take the long way to the Mandan-Bismarck area, thereby losing crucial lifesaving minutes. Once they were in Bismarck, they determined that Sophia required care that was best available in Minneapolis, and she was airlifted there. She has since undergone numerous surgeries in the hopes of saving her hand and arm.
The shrapnel in her arm, which pierced her when she was shot at point-blank range with a concussion grenade by law enforcement on the Backwater Bridge, has been removed. In the interview, Mr. Wilansky described Sophia’s fear that DAPL will send mercenaries to kill her while she’s hospitalized. Even if Sophia is able to retain her hand and arm, she will most likely not have full use of them and suffer from PTSD, as many other Water Protectors undoubtedly will.
The Litany of Lies
In a video that was posted on the now deleted Morton County Sheriff’s Facebook page, law enforcement lied their way through the November 21st press conference. Watching Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier answer the press’ questions post-assault is a how-to-guide on what not to do while lying. He squirmed and backpedaled while trying to keep his lies straight.
He claimed that the north bridge is closed for safety concerns and can’t be open until it’s inspected and that this may require the entire area to be completely cleared for the safety of the inspector. However, law enforcement was apparently looking out for the safety of the Water Protectors when they shot at their heads for trying to remove vehicles, which law enforcement themselves had chained to cement barricades on the Backwater Bridge. Kirchmeier denied using water cannons and stated that law enforcement only used hoses to spray a mist at the crowd. Digital Smoke Signals’ videos show that the hoses were spraying a great deal more than a mist.
Morton County claimed that Water Protectors threw rocks, flaming logs, and slingshot projectiles toward officers, which gave them the right to use “less than lethal force” on the group of predominantly Indigenous People. When asked if the use of water hoses were necessary to keep officers safe, Chief Jason Ziegler of the Mandan Police Department callously replied, “It was effective wasn’t it?” But they only used a “mist” to keep the “rioters” at bay.
When queried about injuries of those they shot and hosed down in below freezing temperatures, they reported that they were not aware of any hospitalizations. Going forward Chief Ziegler said that they will use fire hoses on the peaceful Water Protectors again in below freezing temperatures “if it’s the force necessary to maintain law and order.”
This human rights assault that could have left people dead didn’t dissuade Water Protectors from moving forward with actions. On Thanksgiving, the Water Protectors, who outnumbered law enforcement, peacefully crossed a bridge they constructed to Turtle Island, the site of many brutalities at the hands of law enforcement.
On the top of Turtle Island is the burial site of a family, which means this land is sacred and it is all the more deplorable that law enforcement has shot, maced, and tear gassed so many Indigenous People at this site. Since the reclamation of Turtle Island, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department has added razor wire around the periphery of the top of the hill and begun releasing state-sanctioned propaganda on YouTube, no doubt in the hopes of winning the support of law enforcement agencies across the United States who have recently pulled their personnel due to public pressure.
The Black Friday Arrests
Black Friday saw the abuse and arrests of 33 Water Protectors for trespassing at the Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. Militarized law enforcement in face masks who refused to properly identify themselves ran amok through the mall, stalking and verbally and physically abusing anyone they believed to be connected to the Standing Rock movement (i.e., Red, Black, and Brown People).
Videos show that even when those being harassed were backing away, the cops threatened to arrest them simply because they had their arms linked. This was after they grabbed one man from the crowd and threw him to the ground while he had his back to them. As the group was following orders and leaving the mall, the cowardly cops grabbed several more people from the crowd and arrested them. They even grabbed one woman by the hair, dragged her back into the mall, and slammed her onto the ground. One Water Protector saw law enforcement with AR-15s.
Meanwhile, law enforcement never even chastised, let alone arrested, the lowly white man in the red shirt who menacingly entered their space as they were arresting people throughout this video. Nor did Jennifer Boyle, a white Trump supporter who went on a racist tirade for over 10 minutes in the middle of a Chicago Michael’s, ever encounter the police. The police came so late that she had already left. And a white, cisgender man, another Trump supporter, began yelling on a plane and referring to the women passengers as “Hillary bitches” without ever being removed by the Delta flight crew. This all proves yet again that white privilege and settler privilege are alive and well in ameriKKKa.
The Assault on Oceti Sakowin Camp
The Army Corps of Engineers, acting under President Obama, also delivered another hit to the Water Protectors and Indigenous People on Black Friday. Colonel Henderson, Omaha District Commander, issued an order to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation stating that they were to be removed from the Oceti Sakowin camp by December 5th to a “free speech zone” south of the Cannon Ball River on the reservation. He claimed that necessary life saving medical-, emergency-, and infrastructure-related services could not be accessed on this land and it was in the interest of the “protesters” to move to the reservation. The reservation side of the Cannon Ball River has next to no winterized structures built, unlike the Oceti Sakowin camp, and the Water Protectors will still go without proper access to emergency medical care due to the law enforcement blockade on Highway 1806. Those that remain at the Oceti camp would be considered trespassers and would remain at their “own risk.”
Henderson’s words sounded awfully familiar to those of us whose ancestors were told these very lies. We were told that we were better off on the reservation or in Indian Territory. We were forcibly removed, our lands, lives, and ways stolen from us. The resources that we were promised once on these lands were never delivered. Treaties were broken. The land that the Oceti Sakowin camp sits on is unceded land protected by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. It’s not the Army Corps’ land to take, yet here we are with the federal government trying to remove us in the dead of winter yet again.
In a hasty, but still vague and colonized, change of plans, Henderson stated on the 25th that the Corps would not forcibly remove those at the Oceti Sakowin camp, but that those who remain past December 5th are at risk for “citation under federal, state, and local laws.” He went on to say that the “free speech zone” would still be on the reservation where medical, emergency, and fire services were clearly defined, and there would no longer be violent confrontations between law enforcement and “protesters.” Basically, be good little Indians and return to the rez and we won’t kill you.
North Dakota Governor Dalrymple doubled down and gave his own set of marching orders to the Oceti Sakowin camp on the 28th. Under this order, the Oceti camp was designated an “evacuation area,” and all who resided there were to immediately vacate and take their belongings with them or face citation or arrest. This executive order was to remain in effect regardless of how the Army Corps “redefines or removes these prohibited areas.” It seems that in Governor Dalrymple’s eyes, he has more power than the U.S. federal government.
He even went so far as to feign a ludicrous concern for public safety in the following statement:
“I direct state agencies, emergency service officials, and nongovernmental organizations to reduce threats to public safety by not guaranteeing the provision of emergency and other governmental and nongovernmental services in the evacuation area, unless otherwise approved on a case by case basis by the Morton County Sheriff or Superintendent of the Highway Patrol.”
As of now, no one has been removed from the camp, but Dalrymple has threatened to stop supplies from entering it. There was originally a threat of a road blockade, but now, Cecily Fong of North Dakota Emergency Services has said that law enforcement will stop anyone they suspect is taking supplies to camp and inform them that they could be given a citation of up to $1,000. This will include all delivery drivers, propane suppliers, and individuals who the genocidal agents of the state suspect are sneaking supplies into camp.
These removal orders and citation scare tactics all coincide with the arrival of the now more than 2,100 veterans who are traveling to Standing Rock from December 4th through 7th. The event—which was organized by Wes Clark Jr., Michael Wood Jr., and Tulsi Gabbard—has exceeded the Facebook event capacity of 2,000 attendees, and there is now the possibility of a second “deployment” date.
Indigenous People within the colonized borders of the United States have served in the military at higher rates than any other ethnic and racial group. Citing this as their reason for standing with the Water Protectors, the veterans will stand in peace against the heavily militarized law enforcement agencies that have not only brutalized the predominantly Indigenous group of people but also denigrated the Native Veterans.
Fight These Genocidal Acts
Call, write, and social media blast President Obama to intervene and stop the DAPL. Pressure the U.S. Justice Department to hold Governor Jack Dalrymple, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, and all in- and out-of-state law enforcement leaders and individuals involved accountable for these abuses.
Call the White House
Comments: 202-456-1111 (TTY/TTD: 202-456-6213)
Switchboard: 202-456-1414 (TTY/TTD: 202-456-2121)
Call the Situation Room
202-456-9431, 202-456-9451, and 202-456-945
Call the U.S. Department of Justice
TTY/ASCII/TDD: 800-877-8339 (or Federal IP Relay Service )
If you’re white, especially if you’re a hetero, cisgendered man, and arrestable, go to Standing Rock and put yourself on the front lines. Native Women, Youth, and People have the highest rates of incarceration of all races in the United States. It’s time for you to use your privilege and put yourself on the line for us.