dakota access, nodapl, morton county, standing rock
Two men in combat gear stand watch over a bridge on State Highway 1806 to ensure protesters don't attempt to contact Dakota Access workers. (Photo by Adam Schrader)

The Nov. 20 events started with Standing Rock protesters removing one of the trucks from the bridge around 6 p.m., said Lieutenant Tom Iverson with the North Dakota State Highway Patrol.

“This was done even after numerous commands were given to not do so,” Iverson said. “They have been attempting this for the past couple weeks, knowing full well they are to not touch those vehicles.”

He said more than 400 protesters gathered on the bridge and attempted to flank the officers to the east and west. Protesters said the action was to clear the road so emergency vehicles could use the bridge. Iverson said that isn’t so.

“The removal of the truck and flanking of officers was done to breach the line and gain access to the north pipeline construction corridor,” he said. “Their intent to breach the line and disrupt construction at the pipeline corridor is readily and openly shared by many of the rioters.”

Iverson said that the use of the fire hose as a water canon was justified.

“Protesters swam across the creek on multiple occasions to gain access to Turtle Hill, subjecting themselves to extremely cold water. They put themselves in that position, just as they put themselves on the front line where water hoses were used,” he said. “Yes it was cold out, but once again, they chose to willfully break the law in an attempt to breach the line.”

Iverson said that the road closure would not hamper medical services to Standing Rock protesters if needed.

“Fort Yates does have a hospital and emergency medical services.  The rioters were the parties who blocked the road by burning the trucks,” he said. “The fact remains they blocked the road many times in the past. Now they are worried about medical response? We have been worried about medical response throughout their many times of blocking the road.”

Reports have said police also used rubber bullets against the protesters. Rubber bullets and water canons are both deemed “less-than lethal” but can still severely injure and mortally wound.

However, Iverson said that rubber bullets have not been used against the Dakota Access protesters and he cannot comment on the potential lethality of weapons including fire hoses, sponge rounds and bean bag rounds.

“Rubber bullets are not used. They do exist, but have not been used,” he said. “Less-than lethal rounds are used to limit the escalation of conflict. Attempting to breach the police line results in action taken by law enforcement. It is unrealistic to stand by and allow those with unlawful and violent intentions to have their way.”

Photos and videos show officers using less-than lethal rounds against protesters, including the shooting of an unarmed indigenous man off his horse, bruising his ribs. Reports from the Oceti Sakowin camp have said that another woman was injured so badly by police that her arm may need to be amputated.

Weeks ago, police and protesters agreed that the bridge would be cleared as soon as possible, but protesters are frustrated with the delays from law enforcement in doing so. Protesters argue that police aren’t honoring the agreement and want the blockade to remain in place so they have an unfair advantage over them.

“For clarification, protesters have blocked the highway on numerous occasions,” Iverson said. “They have no authority to do such a thing.”

Protesters allegedly set fire to the two trucks on Oct. 27, which to this day, many of them and their leaders deny. Police charged all of those arrested that day with attempting to endanger by fire or explosives, a felony charge, because of the fires. They also gave a New York journalist the same charges.

Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network has made several attempts to quell rumors in the camp that police surveillance aircraft have sprayed protesters with mustard gas.

“They have been told numerous times to leave the vehicles in place, and knew that their actions of removing the vehicle were illegal,” Iverson said. “To claim they are simply cleaning up their mess has about as much merit as their claim that law enforcement used mustard gas to spray them from an airplane.”

Police have routinely said that protesters have used weapons against them, including: guns, bows and arrows, Molotov cocktails and slingshots.

Red Fawn Fallis was arrested for allegedly trying to shoot officers. The weapon was confiscated. Police provided a video to the media showing evidence of Molotov cocktails, but the video doesn’t necessarily show clearly that Molotov cocktails were used.

Police are unable to provide any evidence of protesters using slingshots to hurl “boulders” at officers, other than the reports of other officers.

Clear evidence, including video footage, shows DAPL workers have made attempts to kill and critically injure protesters. Police have said little these events and little seems to be done about stopping workers from engaging with the protesters, protecting the safety of the protesters.

Video footage from Nov. 20 shows police attempting to shoot down a protester’s camera drone using the fire hose.

“There is a temporary flight restriction in that area limiting the use of drones. The drones are consistently flying over unprotected people, an FAA violation,” Iverson said. “Spraying the drone with water in an attempt to disable it is within everyone’s best interest.”

Iverson said one officer was hit in the head with a rock during the Nov. 20 protest action, but the extent of his injuries are unknown. He said police are committed to a peaceful resolution, but did not detail any efforts to deescalate the police-protester battlefront.

“Law enforcement leaders are routinely engaging in open dialogue with tribal leaders. The anarchist group listens to no one,” Iverson said. “They do not respect the elders, and they will not stand by peacefully. That is extremely evident and there are multiple incidents proving this.”

Iverson said he was unaware of the Nov. 20 action did any further damage to the bridge.