This statement, by a sheriff’s department spokeswoman conceding the target of the water cannons as an afterthought, is almost art:
“There are multiple fires being set by protesters on the bridge and in the area of the bridge,” department spokeswoman Donnell Hushka told CNN. “We have firetrucks on the scene. They are using their fire hoses to put out the fires, wet the land around so fires don’t spread, and they are also using water as crowd control.”
Protesters say they were starting small fires to keep people warm — after they had been sprayed by the water cannons.
Perhaps the most alarming story to come out of the weekend clashes, though, was that of 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, who is at risk of losing her arm after protester organizers say she was struck by a concussion grenade. From the Intercept:
In a statement on Tuesday, her father, Wayne Wilansky, said she would need multiple surgeries to regain functional use of her arm and hand. “All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away,” he said. “She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.”
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the sheriff’s department denied using concussion grenades and suggested the injury was caused by explosives allegedly used by protesters. The Medic and Healer Council responded, “These statements are refuted by Sophia’s testimony, by several eyewitnesses who watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people, by the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site, and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.”
In the pipeline standoff, we have all the hallmarks of a militarized police force, with images and events that remind one of the police crackdowns in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
At least two journalists, including “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman, were arrested last month while covering the demonstrations. Police confronting the Native American protesters, and others who have come to join them, have used dogs, tear gas, rubber bullets, the aforementioned water cannons and, allegedly, concussion grenades. The tactics have been denounced by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly, who released a statement last week calling out the violence against protesters and the “inhuman and degrading conditions” they face when detained.
Here it is impossible for the one’s thoughts not to turn again to our incoming president. President Obama has expressed some support for the rights of Native Americans, and thereby some support for their protest. But he has not waded in so deep as to pressure authorities not to use violence against them, despite calls for him to do so. If that is disappointing — and it is — what will President-elect Donald Trump do? Will the man who openly encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies speak up for the rights of protesters once he is in office? The pipeline protesters have already been left out in the cold, and the next four years don’t show signs of being any warmer.