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Police Attack Unarmed Standing Rock Water Protectors in Freezing Temperatures with Water Cannons

and Other Weapons in 5-Hour Standoff

November 21, 2016

Contact: Tasha Moro, NLG Communications Director | 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 or for tax-deductible contributions. For updates, visit their website at, and follow them at, Twitter @WaterProtectUs.

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