Eviction of water protectors from Standing Rock has begun
Hundreds of militarized officers surrounded camps Wednesday.
Police refused freedom of the press — except for ABC News.
Police made several violent arrests, and allegedly broke Eric Poemz’ hip.
An estimated 100 water protectors began filing out of the remaining camps on unceded treaty land at Standing Rock on Wednesday, in advance of the governor’s forcible eviction deadline of 2 p.m. in order to avoid arrest — but others opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline refused to surrender to government-backed Big Oil interests.
Ceremonially setting alight the tipis and wooden structures — which, for nearly a year, comprised a fully functioning mini-city originally known as Oceti Sakowin, after the Great Sioux Nation, or Seven Council Fires — around 100 water protectors, some in tears, marched prayerfully away from camp for the last time.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) February 22, 2017
Mainstream media at first reported the blazing shelters as if they’d been unintentionally set, but according to Native American water protectors, setting fire to sacred tipis is traditional when an enemy closes in and an area must be abandoned.
Everyone Left Will Be Arrested — Except You, ABC News
Shortly after the revised deadline of 4 p.m. passed, everyone remaining — Indigenous and non-Native water protectors, medics, clergy of various faiths, and journalists, alike — became subject to arrest and charges.
Incidentally, independent journalists and livestreamers were told they had to have specific ‘credentials’ and would be treated as if acting in concert with water protectors — thus subject to the same treatment as those who are the subject of news coverage — while, to the consternation of everyone, ABC News was somehow allowed to film the incident from behind the police line.
Within a mere 20 minutes, according to reports on social and mainstream media, law enforcement arrested at least ten people.
Although water protectors had anticipated full use of force by law enforcement and the National Guard, Wednesday’s eviction evinced uncharacteristic restraint — at least in contrast to multiple barbarous attacks by police over the last few months.
But the day wasn’t without incident — or devoid of violence.
Police Violence Hasn’t Ceased
Eric Poemz, a journalist, “Native Activist and full time Water Protector,” according to his Twitter account, was among a group of people on Highway 1806 who encountered a menacing line of law enforcement fully clad in riot gear. He and others spoke directly to officers in a last ditch attempt to appeal to their humanity and common ground.
“I know you have a job to do and a family to provide for,” Poemz implored the line of a couple dozen taxpayer-funded, militarized clones on live video, “but why do it [through] protecting oil?
“That’s all we’re trying to do, sir, is protect the water.”
Addressing a single officer, Poemz suggests, “Why don’t you be honorable and set down your badge right now?”
Seconds later, and for reasons unclear in footage, the cadre of cops rushes the small group, shoving Poemz — armed only with a cell phone camera — to the ground so forcefully, he shrieks in pain, possibly from a fractured hip. Officers then proceed to punch him in the face while making the arrest.
During a subsequent exchange, officers callously doubt Poemz’ injury is as serious as he believes, and although his video footage doesn’t capture the interaction, the water protector’s screams of agony make clear police aren’t concerned.
In fact, a brief clip of the same incident from NBC News affiliate KFYR-TV shows Poemz, with hands cuffed behind his back, unable to stand as a group of officers rolls their eyes — treating the man more like a nuisance than a victim of their own excessive tactics.
But after making the arrest, police can be overheard on an audio recording giving Poemz a rather revealing look into the psyche of law enforcement at Standing Rock.
If he is truly injured, an unidentified officer tells Poemz,“then you will receive medical attention; you’ll be treated with respect — so, why don’t you start treating us with some respect?
“You’ve been disrespecting this whole area. You’ve been disrespecting our state and us, for six months. Knock it off.”
Police eventually backed off as dusk took hold, and though many suspected the retreat occurred to allow backup to arrive, no further law enforcement actions took place — possibly due to a camp cleanup slated for Thursday morning.
This Isn’t the End
For an untold number of water protectors around the world — both those who were fortunate enough to spend time in Standing Rock and those who support the movement against DAPL and Big Oil — to see camps in flames and so few remaining entrenched on treaty lands is the epitome of bittersweet.
While it appears to outsiders the groundswell of support for Standing Rock’s opposition to the pipeline has run its course, water protectors all around the U.S. and world carried the torch of #NoDAPL to peaceful battle against additional planned pipelines.
Authorities might forcefully evict the Standing Rock camps, but they can never quash the spirit of protection and preservation coursing through the veins of all who stand against exploitation by a spurious corporate government.
Many water protectors could identify with Poemz’ description on Twitter, “my mission is clear I’m here to fight for Mother Earth!!”