Source: The Intercept
As police unleashed streams of icy water Sunday night against Dakota Access pipeline demonstrators, Linda Black Elk, a member of the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, was helping care for injured demonstrators. The council estimated that 300 people were treated for injuries, including 26 who were taken to area hospitals.
“What it was like was people walking through the dark of a winter North Dakota night, some of them so cold, and sprayed with water for so long, that their clothes were frozen to their body and crunching as they walked. So you could hear this crunching sound and this pop-pop-pop, and people yelling [to the police], ‘We’ll pray for you! We love you!” Black Elk said, describing the scene as police sprayed protesters with water and fired tear gas and rubber bullets during the more than six-hour standoff.
“All of a sudden there were these bright, blinding spotlights, so you could see each other, but you couldn’t see [the police],” she said. “Every once in awhile you could hear someone scream who had been hit by a rubber bullet.”
In the midst of the clash, the Medic and Healer Council, which was set up to provide health support to those fighting the pipeline, released a statement pleading with police to halt the use of water cannons. “As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions,” the statement said.
The standoff began after pipeline opponents attempted to use a semitruck to remove two charred military vehicles from a bridge. The vehicles were serving as a blockade between the large encampment known as Oceti Sakowin, which has served as a base for blocking the pipeline, and construction sites accessible further down the highway. Beyond the burned-out vehicles stood cement road barriers topped with razor wire, behind which police and other security officials have been standing guard since the end of October. Its presence means a detour for those traveling between the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the city of Bismarck, including emergency medical services.
In a statement on Sunday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department explained the bridge closing, saying, “North Dakota Department of Transportation has closed the Backwater Bridge due to damage caused after protesters set numerous fires on the bridge October 27th. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested Morton County to prevent protesters from trespassing on [US Army Corps of Engineers] land north of the camp.”