Social media captures chaos at Standing Rock as police, anti-pipeline demonstrators face off

Posts on social media capture the chaos on a bridge near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation where hundreds of people opposed to a contentious pipeline project faced off with heavily armed authorities Sunday night.

Images of tear gas smoke, water cannons, injuries at Standing Rock spark outrage online

Police use a water cannon on people during a demonstration against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Posts on social media capture the chaos on a bridge near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation where hundreds of people opposed to a contentious pipeline project faced off with heavily armed authorities Sunday night.

Multiple live, streaming videos and photographs posted to social media show North Dakota authorities shooting tear gas canisters into the crowd and steadily spraying a water cannon. Some on the ground say several people were hit and injured by rubber bullets or were suffering hypothermia.

The temperature dropped to as low as -3 C.

"This is a brutal assault on people that are doing nothing more than trying to protect their drinking water and in this case, trying to clear the road," said Tara Houska, a Washington-based attorney who is originally from the Couchiching First Nation in Ontario.
Backwater Bridge, located just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, was the site of a clash between heavily-armed police and those opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline. (CBC)

The incident began on Sunday afternoon when people from the Oceti Sakowin camp — where thousands of people opposed to the $3.78-billion Dakota Access pipeline have been gathering for months — tried to remove two burned-out trucks from the Backwater Bridge on route 1806, located just north of the reservation.

That route, which runs north from the reservation towards the state capital, has been closed since a previous clash with authorities in October.

"It was to open up the road so in the daylight the world can see the face of militarized law enforcement and state oppression," wrote Dallas Goldtooth, organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, on Facebook.

As the night wore on, the situation on and around the bridge intensified, with people from the camp utilizing makeshift shields to protect themselves from the water cannons and rubber bullets. Videos from the scene show the air thick with tear gas, smoke and steam from freezing water while people yell, sing and drum.

A group called the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council, which was set up to provide medical aid to people in the camps, reported dozens of injuries and used its Facebook page to issue an appeal for for medical supplies and warm blankets.


Others posted photos of their own injuries, including one demonstrator named Aidoneus Bishop.

'Just got shot in the hand and back with rubber bullets. Tear gas, sound canon, flash bangs, and water canon,' protester Aidoneus Bishop wrote on Facebook.

"Just got shot in the hand and back with rubber bullets," Bishop wrote on Facebook.

Outrage, condemnation

There was outrage and condemnation for police and authorities from a wide-range of people, including environmentalist and former American vice-president Al Gore.

Actor Susan Sarandon was among several celebrities who also used their social media profiles to speak out about the confrontation on Sunday, urging her followers to contact the White House to complain.

While Amnesty International launched a campaign calling on authorities in North Dakota to scale back its response to demonstrations, including asking police not to wear riot gear.