A protester stands before police with LRAD cannon.
We could see the police forces amassing in the north of the Backwater Bridge on 1806 from Last Child Hill. The bridge was the site of the November 20 water hose fight, and still loomed in our minds at Standing Rock. An entourage was crossing it now from our side. In the middle, Chase Iron Eyes could be seen in a red jacket. The police came out to meet him. The police told him, if we refused to leave the hill, everyone would be arrested – it was private property.
Chase chose to make a stand on treaty land, in defiance of the violent corporate state.
My friend, Baby Blue Bird, gave me a telescope to see into the hills in the north. Our friend Spark, who worked as a stove installer, held ground alongside Zorro, the logistics guru (not their default names). I’d seen these people work and defend for months, and held deep admiration for their sacrifices and passion. They, like many at Standing Rock, were humbly gritted for any task. Out in the northern hills were Hummers parked on multiple observation posts. Security forces on snowmobiles swooped back and forth in lower areas over the white snow. It was a stunning view of the rolling North Dakota prairie. Overhead, a plane and helicopter swirled around the bright cloudless sky.
The police came up 1806 in the east and from the gullies to the west, creating a tactical horseshoe shape around the seven odd tipis and some 70 people up on the hill. Water Protectors gathered on 1806 to stop the Hummers and armored vehicles lead in by the troops. They were slowly pushed back, allowing the police access to the property where Chase Iron Eyes had directed his people to set up the tipis.
Police riding snowmobiles and four-wheelers moved close, followed by large trucks. One of the trucks slid into a snowy ditch. On Last Child Hill, the prayer circle tightened, while others formed a barrier facing the west, arm in arm.
Unsure how quickly they’d attack, we jumped on the snowmobile. I couldn’t feel my nose or chin as we rode into the gully and up the southern knoll. A sheriff began to ride our way. We accelerated down the eastern slope at a precarious angle, leveled out and maneuvered across the bulldozed snow at the bottom. The driver ripped past the entrance to the private property on contested treaty lands. At the wire fence we turned south. I got off, jumped the fence, and walked over to the crowd of Water Protectors.
The police line cut a diagonal across the road. The police were lined up in riot gear at the center of the line. The LRAD sound cannon announced something to the effect of, “SUBJECTS, DO NOT APPROACH THE BRIDGE. SUBJECTS WHO APPROACH THE BRIDGE SHALL BE ARRESTED USING ANY NECESSARY FORCE.”
The voice was electronically altered in such a way that it seemed to penetrate the skin, strong high end frequencies with tight distortion.
I’d never been called a ‘subject’ before – did we have a king? Who ruled this fief anyway?
The crowd chanted and drummed. Many people spoke to the police, directing their rage toward them. Your children will be ashamed of you when they read history, they said. You shot my brother, yelled one man. You are state legislated terrorists, cried another. One man walked shirtless between the mob and the police and said nothing. The police ignored this. One cop down at the end conversed with people…
I don’t like violence – This is my job – We don’t want to hurt you.
They closed in around them from the west and the south east. Two command vehicles drove to the base of the hill, along with two passenger vans for the subjects in prayer.
Good friends – people I knew and respected – were pulled away from the fire on top of Last Child Hill. Their willingness to be arrested for breaking laws that (given our context) lacked moral weight, was one of the most heroic things I have ever witnessed. All told some 70 people went to jail for something they believed in with all of their hearts.