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Police Cross Line As Standing Rock Protester Has Arm Blown Apart

It’s been weeks since President Obama stated, “We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks,” regarding the water protectors being abused by paramilitary personnel of all stripes on the Standing Rock reservation near Cannon Ball, ND–all for standing up for their right to clean water, safe from corporate plundering. These days the marauders don’t have to show up on horseback and burn your village down. They can just build a pipeline through it and let you, your community, the land, air, the water, and all of your critter friends, pay for it should anything go wrong. Whether something goes wrong or not, they profit, so the pipelines keep coming, just like the Dakota Access Pipeline.

And how have those weeks since Obama’s statement panned out? The folks out there fighting for clean water have been raided, abused, and injured by private security, local and out-of-state law enforcement, as well as the National Guard and attack dogs. People are being shot in the face with rubber bullets at point-blank range. Peaceful citizens standing up with nothing but drums, feathers, love and conviction, who pray often even for their oppressors, are being bombarded by tear gas. They are being pepper-sprayed by long-range, industrial sprayers, and just Sunday, Nov. 20, reports are coming from the front lines that  hundreds of water protectors have been injured, many of whom are now in the ER due to their injuries.

There are photos circulating of one brave woman’s arm blown open, down to the muscle, if not bone, by a concussion grenade. Reports state she may well lose the arm as a result of the injury. At the request of the victim’s family members, those photographs will not be shared in this article, but can be found, here, published before the family’s request was known, for those who will inevitably scour the internet to find them, anyway.

Livestreams abound with confirmation of the travesties being enacted in North Dakota, and under Democratic control—under Obama’s “wait and see” attitude–for the sake of private oil interests.

What is there to wait for? An oil company will not back down where money can be made. Anyone knows that. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion project by itself. Clearly, Obama has been waiting for the people to give in, hoping that winter chill settling in would weaken them to the point of being merely a small nuisance once again, rather than the worldwide lightning rod they have become as of late, and he has maintained that same approach even after having the gall to say along with his “see how it plays out” comment, “and then determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to traditions of the first Americans.”

Since the winter chill has not thinned the protectors enough as hoped, law enforcement took to spraying them down in below-freezing temperatures Sunday night, causing mass hypothermia. The protectors were also simultaneously shot at close range by rubber bullets, pummeled with tear gas, and pepper-sprayed for hours into the night. Elders were blasted by water cannons, and hundreds ended up being severely wounded. Many ended up in the ER. This is the “properly attentive to traditions of the first Americas” of which Obama spoke? He must have been referring to not that of honoring the traditions of the First Nations people—the rightful heirs to this land—but to that newer tradition establishing genocide against First Nations peoples at the hands of the ever-expanding U.S. government. Perhaps he is keeping his word after all. It was just a misunderstanding—a miscommunication. Most believed when he spoke those words weeks ago he was alluding to a sense of humanity. Our bad.

It’s plain as day Obama’s integrity on this issue is compromised at best at this point. His actions show as much. How far beyond the realm of the humane are the corporate world, and our government, willing to go to have their way? Staggeringly, further still.

Not only are the water protectors at Standing Rock being abused by law enforcement via military-grade weaponry, they are also being gaslighted, as they are constantly framed by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department as the aggressors, as “violent” and “unlawful.” One look at the deplorable Department’s Facebook page will show you that.

Case in point, Nov. 20, protectors were just trying to clear burned vehicles from the road, which had been placed by police, “in order to restore access to the nearby Standing Rock encampments so emergency services and local traffic can move freely.” In the midst of that, a fire broke out (many claim by police), and then the water cannons were turned on to “put out the fire,” thereby establishing an excuse to hose down the protectors in below-freezing temperatures—an act that could easily result in someone’s death.

Spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network, Dallas Goldtooth, stated:

“It is below freezing right now and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department is using a water cannon on our people—that is an excessive and potentially deadly use of force.”

This latest clash is being touted across larger, more mainstream media, in glimpses, with language that speaks of “violent clashes,” leaving interpretation by consumers of that media open to the notion that the protectors are being violent, because the system receives the privilege of the benefit of the doubt that it would not be violent on a pro-active level, but that is entirely wrong. Time and again videos and livestreams coming out of the Standing Rock front lines show authorities being the instigators, the aggressors, and clearly the violent ones. Like the chant so often asks, “WHO came dressed for a riot?” But “protestors and police clash violently” echoes in consumers’ minds, regardless, and thereby the guilt of violence falls by default to the protectors by the uninformed masses on the issue, deflating the cause.

This is Obama “letting it play out.” Meanwhile, completion of the pipeline looms, and the protectors, though beaten, shot down, sprayed raw, peppered of eyes, chilled to the bone by water cannons, are not going anywhere.

What now, Obama? What now? The whole world is watching. The U.N. is watching. Do we have to get the Pope involved, too?

Read the official statement on the Nov. 20 incident by the Sacred Stone Camp, below:

Update: You can donate The victim with the severe arm injury, Sophia Wilansky’s, Medical Fund, here.

H/T: Reuters | Featured image courtesy of Unicorn Riot livestream screen capture

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Dylan Hock is a writer and social activist. He is published in a number of little magazines and has an essay on the muzzling of Ezra Pound included in the anthology Star Power: The Impact of Branded Celebrity. He writes for Reverb Press, U.S. Uncut and Liberal America, and has formerly written for Addicting Info, If You Only News, Bipartisan Report and Occupy Democrats. He is a board member of The James Jackson Museum of African American History and officer for the Ezra Pound Society. Follow him on Ello, Minds, and tsū.