This is part three of a nine part series will illuminating the FAA’s complacency and the role the FAA’s concession played in the violence against Water Protectors.
Water Protectors attempted to remove a barricade on Back Water Bridge which had been present since the day of the raid on the Sacred Ground Camp on October 27th. The barricade was made half by Water Protectors and half by police.
Sacred Ground camp was north of Backwater Bridge on contested land; DAPL and the Sheriff calling it DAPL land, and the Water Protectors calling it Standing Rock Sioux land under the 1851 Treaty. The police designated the residents of Sacred Ground trespassers and set to take the land back from the Water Protectors.
Hundreds of police descended on the small camp, with armored vehicles, tasers, tear gas, pepper spray, and LRADs. They formed a line across Highway 1806, spread from pasture fence to pasture fence on either side of the road. As they moved forward to the opening of camp, they spread out to cover the entire length of camp.
They pushed the group past Sacred Ground – the trespass campsite – and continued south toward all of the other camps. They made a promise to not push past County Road 134 but after getting there, they continued to advance – pushing south toward the other camps.
Water Protectors set up a barricade on Back Water Bridge, about half way between County Road 134 and Oceti Sakowin Camp – the largest of the Water Protector camps.
The barricade consisted of four obstacles; a row of wood three feet high, an industrial trailer light up street sign, another stack of wood and a car. The wood and the car were set on fire.
After hours of tear gas, concussion grenades, mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and bean bags, the police retreated, leaving two large army trucks behind.
The army trucks were set on fire.
After the fires were out, days after the raid, the police set up a concrete and razor wire barricade behind the trucks claiming the bridge may be unsafe to travel on due to the damage to the bridge. Law enforcement used the potential weight of cars and potential un-safety of the bridge to justify the closure but they put thousands of pounds of concrete road dividers on the bridge. In January, the North Dakota Department of Transportation determined the bridge is structurally sound and only needed to be resurfaced. In response, the governor said he would not reopen the bridge or resurface it until federal agents were in the camp and order was restored.
The blockade fully stops traffic on Highway 1806, making the drive time to the nearest trauma hospital up to 45 minutes longer.
On November 20, some Water Protectors attempted to clear the bridge.
They successfully removed one Army truck before the action exploded in police violence. Over three hundred people were injured when police turned water hoses on the Water Protectors.
Drones buzzed above the action at Back Water Bridge, covering the action from above.
Police turned their hoses toward the drones, in an attempt to shoot them out of the sky with water.
A no-fly zone had not been called and the sky was free of helicopters. The drones were flying well above the action.
In the days after Backwater Bridge Encounter, the drone footage disproved police assertions that they only sprayed at fires started by Water Protectors. It showed the full scope of the use of the hoses, including a full overhead view of the police hosing down hundreds of people with no fires in sight.
LaRae Meadows is a freelance writer, who has been embedded at Standing Rock.