There was another clash between protesters and police on a road outside Cannonball, North Dakota Sunday night which police described as a “riot.” The protesters, who call themselves “water protectors” are upset some of their number were doused with water when it was 20 degrees out. From the Associated Press:
The skirmish began Sunday evening after protesters tried to remove two burned-out trucks on what’s known as the Backwater Bridge, not far from the encampment where they’ve been for weeks as they demonstrate against the pipeline. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department estimated 400 protesters sought to cross the bridge on state Highway 1806.
The sheriff’s department said in a statement that law enforcement officers “had rocks thrown at them, burning logs and rocks shot from slingshots,” and that one officer had been hit on the head by a thrown rock. One person was arrested.
Rema Loeb said he was forced to retreat from the bridge because he feared being doused with water on the freezing night. Others, he said, needed medical treatment after being hit with tear gas.
Video of the incident shows police had formed a line and a handful of protesters left the road and attempted to get close to the police line. These were the individuals hit with a water hose. In this clip shot by a drone circling overhead you can see the water hose being used at about 4:40:
A spokesman for the “water protectors” says 17 people were taken to hospitals, some from injuries caused by rubber bullets and others from tear gas and hypothermia. The Sierra Club called the use of water hoses an “act of brutality.”
Of course this raises the question: What were police supposed to do in this situation? These officers are probably not enjoying spending their night on a police line in the cold being pelted with objects. They used water and tear gas to keep protesters from turning this into a shoving match which would result in more arrests and possible injuries. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department posted a message on their Facebook page last night deeming the protest a “riot”:
Law enforcement is currently involved in an ongoing riot on the Backwater Bridge, north of a protest camp in Morton County. Protesters in mass amounts, estimated to be around 400, are on the bridge and attempting to breach the bridge to go north on highway 1806. Protesters have started a dozen fires near the bridge.
Police are looking for the protests to come to a peaceful end. Until that happens, more conflicts in cold weather are inevitable. Here’s another angle on the use of the water cannon: