Police teargas Water Protectors during Highway 1806 standoff. (Photo: Elizabeth Hoover via Instagram @lizhoover.)

Contact: Tasha Moro, NLG Communications Director
communications@nlg.org | 212-679-5100, ext. 15

CANNON BALL, ND—The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC; formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), strongly condemns the flagrant civil and human rights violations committed by Morton County law enforcement last night against unarmed Standing Rock Water Protectors. The standoff lasted more than five hours in freezing temperatures (26-degrees Fahrenheit), during which police deployed water cannons, rubber bullets, Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), teargas, and flash-bang grenades against Water Protectors and members of the press. The attack resulted in 167 injuries—including at least one cardiac arrest, one seizure, and mass hypothermia. One 13-year-old girl was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and at least 20 people were sent to the emergency room with serious injuries. WPLC/NLG Legal Observers on the scene reported many people temporarily lost consciousness from being shot with such “less lethal” munitions. The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes provided Emergency Medical Services, which Water Protector Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network called “ridiculous,” noting that such EMS “should be the responsibility of Morton County.”

Last night, WPLC attorney Angela Bibens described the horrifying scene: “[Law enforcement] deployed 20 mace canisters in a small area in less than five minutes, to the point where people have lost bowel function. At least one seizure has been witnessed at the front lines by our legal observation team. There have been people vomiting from the exposure to the mace. The water cannon has been mixed with the mace, and so even our legal observers have been exposed and are trying to deal with that while they’re doing up their notes. And canisters were shot at the medic area at the front line. There is at least one woman who has a broken kneecap. At least one elder went into cardiac arrest and was revived through CPR at the front line by medics.”

The attack began around 6 PM yesterday, while Water Protectors attempted to peacefully remove two military vehicles that had been blocking Highway 1806 since October 27, ironically, in an effort to clear the path providing the most direct route from the Oceti Sakowin camp to Bismarck, ND, for emergency services vehicles. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department made unfounded claims of “very aggressive” behavior and an “ongoing riot” by Water Protectors, and falsely claimed that the water cannons were deployed in response to fires set by Water Protectors on Highway 1806.

The police attack comes shortly after a local judge dismissed trumped-up felony charges against 15 Water Protectors last Thursday, citing failure by the District Attorney’s office to provide sufficient evidence of “Conspiracy to Endanger by Fire.” Additional hearings are set for December 5. The WPLC continues its months-long work on the ground in North Dakota, providing Water Protectors with legal representation, jail support, legal observers, and other direct legal assistance.

Concerned members of the public are strongly encouraged to call local and federal agencies to demand (1) immediate end to the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, (2) a full investigation into abuses by law enforcement, and (3) dropping the felony charges against Water Protectors arising from the October 27 police raid on the camp.

White House: 202-456-1414
White House Situation Room, 202-456-9431
North Dakota Governor’s Office: 701-328-2200
Morton County Sheriff’s Office: 701-667-3330
Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office: 701-667-3350
Army Corps of Engineers Bismarck Office 701-255-0015

Donations to support the Water Protector Legal Collective may be made at fundrazr.com/campaigns/11B5z8 or nlg.org/donate/waterprotectorlegal for tax-deductible contributions. For updates, visit their website at waterprotectorlegal.org, and  follow them at Facebook.com/WaterProtectorLegal, Twitter @WaterProtectUs.

PHOTO: Police teargas Water Protectors on Highway 1806, November 20, 2016. (Photo: Elizabeth Hoover via Instagram @lizhoover.)

NOTE: The Morton County Sheriff warned about hypothermia just before using water cannons.

The folks at Standing Rock have provided this additional information:

Prepared by Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council at the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance Camps
On November 21st as a direct result of the violent police response at Standing Rock towards unarmed people opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 21 year old woman from New York City, Sophia Wilansky, was severely injured when a concussion grenade thrown by police hit her left arm and exploded. Sophia was heading to bring water to the unarmed people who were being attacked for several hours by Morton County Sheriff forces. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has stated that she was injured by a purported propane explosion that the Sheriff’s Department claimed the unarmed people created. These statements are refuted by Sophia’s testimony, by several eye-witnesses who watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people, by the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.
Sophia was safely taken out of North Dakota for emergent surgery and is currently in stable condition. Below is her statement as conveyed by her father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky.
At around 4:30am after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly at protesters or protectors as they want to be called. A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well.  All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident - it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in face and groin intending to do the most possible damage. Sophia will have surgery again tomorrow as bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand. The first surgery took a vein from her leg which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. She will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand. There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time. I am left without the right words to describe the anguish of watching her look at her now alien arm and hand.”
A fund set up by friends and verified to help with Sophia’s recovery is set up here:
The Standing Rock Medic Healer Council deplores the ongoing use of violence by the state of North Dakota to address the concerns of the thousands of people peacefully assembled at Standing Rock to insist on the right to clean healthy drinking water.
Water is Life, Mni Wiconi
Linda Black Elk, PhD, Ethnobotanist, Sitting Bull College
Michael Knudsen, MPH candidate, Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council
Noah Morris, EMT
Amelia Massucco, RN
John Andrews, RN
Kristina Golden, EMT, herbalist
Sebastian Rodriguez, RN
Rosemary Fister, RN, MNPHN, DNP Candidate
Rupa Marya, MD, DoNoHarm Coalition, University of California – San Francisco
David Kingfisher, MD, JD, Wichita State University
Jesse Lopez, MD, Heartland Surgical Care
Kalama O Ka Aina Niheu, MD, Aha Aloha Aina
Howard Ehrman, MD, MPH, University of Illinois - Chicago
Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, University of Chicago
Elizabeth Friedman, MD
Vanessa Bolin, ALS Paramedic
Contact: Michael Knudsen, Medic Coordinator and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ethno-botanist Linda Black Elk, PhD – medichealercouncil@gmail.com