Donald Trump signed orders this morning to green-light construction on the Dakota Access and now-revived Keystone XL pipelines, which have both been long fought by indigenous activists. Water protectors brought the No Dakota Access Pipeline* movement to the world's attention last summer.
This order—which will not create long-term job stability or strengthen the economy as the Indigenous Environmental Network noted—comes shortly after 35 water protectors were arrested the week of January 16 near Cannonball, North Dakota.
Video emerged on social media after "law enforcement [used] tear gas and rubber bullets on water protectors who attempted to set up a tipi on Backwater bridge off highway 1806" on Wednesday, Jan. 18, reports Indigenous Peoples News.
Here's one of the videos that circulated after the arrests:
They ran towards us shooting "less lethal" (Not as lethal, but still capable of being lethal) rounds at us while charging on snow machines, picking off people and dragging them back across the bridge. When I ran up the hill I heard 3 shots and was sure they were for me, right then I looked to my right and a brother was on the ground screaming curled into a ball. Then the tear gas came. #NODAPL #WeAreStillHere
Water protector Andre Nunez, a member of the Winnebago and Santee Dakota tribes of Nebraska, was one of 21 people arrested last Wednesday night. He spoke to The Stranger over the phone yesterday afternoon.
"The reason I went to Backwater bridge was because some stuff on our side got escalated and I wanted to calm them down," said Nunez, who is staying at the Standing Rock Two-Spirit Nation camp nearby.
As water protectors attempted to set up a tipi on the bridge, Morton County officers were deployed, and began spraying tear gas and pepper spray, and shooting rubber bullets into the crowd. When the indigenous activists tried to flee, Nunez said a police officer grabbed him by the legs while another two tackled him to the ground.
"Some people got arrested and some people got beat up really bad. Someone had a bloody nose and someone else said he was lucky he had a helmet on because the cops kept hitting him," he said.
Nunez continued: "I went out not expecting not to be arrested. I went out to be a de-escalator and to calm people down. I’ve told people at camp that I didn’t want to get arrested, but I would if it meant protecting people I loved."
The Stranger requested comments from the Water Protector Legal Collective, which provides legal representation for indigenous activists, but a statement was not immediately available.
The International Indian Treaty Council and the United Nations held a meeting on Monday; they discussed the arrests around the 10-minute mark in the video below:
Indigenous Peoples News notes this about the clashes on Monday, Jan. 16:
On Monday night, the water protectors held rallies and marches to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. According to the Sacred Stone Camp:
“Hundreds of water protectors led a prayer walk to the razor wire barricade approximately 700 feet from the drill pad where the Dakota Access Pipeline is proposed to cross the Missouri river. Law enforcement fired tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber-coated steel bullets at point blank range, hitting one person directly in the eye. A total of 14 water protectors were arrested, and some were held in cold dog kennels overnight.”
*An Emergency #NoDAPL rally will be held tonight at 5:30 p.m. in Westlake Park in a show of solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock. Go here for more details.