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Shootings on Backwater Bridge

It is not a coincidence that so many terrible police actions have happened on this bridge.

Late afternoon on December 27, “Lunatic Outpost” released a video showing a group of about “20 to 50” Water Protectors who, while returning from a prayer walk along the Cannonball River, were chased down by armed security from DAPL and Morton County Sheriff’s Department. A helicopter and tracked vehicles were involved in the pursuit. Behind the images of the large number of police and security dotting the snow-covered terrain played, background radios from the Standing Rock medics could be heard. “We need a medic team. We need a team ready to roll now.” Then the narrator says “Four women were taken away in a red paddy wagon of some sort.”

By nightfall, more than 100 Water Protectors rallied at the still heavily barricaded Backwater Bridge to sing prayer songs and to let the police know they are “facing the wrong direction.” On the other side of the concertina wire and the heavy concrete dividers, spread over the entire bridge, more now than ever before, were the police with their mounted sound cannon, a variety of tracked, militarized vehicles, generators and bright lights. In a 30-minute video narrated by Michael Marcus, the world can see how the police, unprovoked by the Water Protectors, fired four or five shots at the crowd. Here is a sampling of what can be seen and heard on the tape just prior to the shooting:

Background: A woman is singing a beautiful Lakota prayer song. There is friendly chatter in the background. In the distance another woman can be heard singing also.

Narrator: “We’re just making them (the police) run around, spending their millions of dollars … all this ‘defense’ for an oil pipeline.”

A Water Protector: “We’re not agitating anybody. We are praying for future generations.”

A Water Protector shouting to the police: “We love you … don’t you know that?!”

Narrator: “So how is that agitating? Praying or their families. Praying for you.”

A Water Protector: “Why don’t you guys join us in prayer?”

Another Water Protector: “Hey we met before, come over and talk with us. How are you protecting the people?”

Narrator: “The water is yours too. What part of that don’t you understand? DAPL is not going to buy you water. When they are done with you they will throw you away like used toilet paper. How come you are still here? We thought DAPL was supposed to stop working?” Oh, ‘there’s no drilling,’ we are told. ‘You can go home and be with your families,’ we are told. But if you notice, see all the dots and lights. They are still drilling. Probably under the water. Water that goes to 17 million people.”

The Group of Water Protectors Shouting: “Mini Wiconi! Mini Wiconi!”

A Water Protector: “Can you say you are peaceful as well when you come up with weapons? Why are you hiding your faces? We are not hiding ours.”

Another Water Protector: “Why did you arrest four of our women?”

A Police officer: “Go to the south side of the bridge now.”

Narrator: “What are you protecting that forces you to threaten us and keep us from using a public bridge?” “Listen to your heart. What does it tell you? Come talk to us.”

A Water Protector: “How many of your brothers in arms have quit because of what you guys are doing?”

Several Water Protectors: “We want this road open!”

POLICE: “Why are you guys on the bridge? You are trespassing. We ask you to go back to the bridge. Comply with the agreement. The Tribe said you will not be on the bridge.”

Water Protectors Shouting: “Mini Wiconi!”

First Gunshot: Here is when the first shot rings out, obviously coming from a police officer whose face is covered.

A Water Protector: “No reason to shoot! You are shooting at females.”

THREE MORE SHOTS: Obviously coming from the police, the first one apparently from a police officer on the left, the next coming from a little closer from the right.

Water Protectors: “Shots fired! Shots fired! What we are doing is not illegal. You are trigger happy! Like always.”

Narrator: “Shooting at us, over a sign? What sign? The one laying down? If it is so important, why isn’t it standing up? Is a sign worth shooting someone for? Your bullets in this temperature and at this close distance could have killed someone!”

Drums and singing in the background. Everyone is singing prayer songs now.

Water Protector: We still love you guys. Please come pray with us.

Narrator: “Hey you guys want to come eat with us? We’re going home to get some supper. It’s cold out here.”


Backwater Bridge

It is not a coincidence that so many terrible police actions have happened on this bridge. It seems now to be a symbol for the lies and ruthlessness of those working in behalf of the now officially illegal effort of DAPL to being working on the pipeline. The reason still being given for keeping the bridge closed is that it may be structurally unsafe for traffic because two trucks on the bridge had been set on fire. Yet, according to a major research article, sponsored by Virginia Polytechnic Institute et. al, a fire event with sufficient magnitude to damage a concrete bridge structure is rare.

Most fire events will not exceed the threshold for bridge damage. Foremost is the fact that most fires involving bridges do not result in structural damage. Fires located in the center of the bridge, both longitudinally and transversely (Location A), caused the largest vertical deflection … If there is evidence that the steel temperature may have exceeded 1000°C, such as evidence of flaking or surface degradation along with the presence of abnormally high temperature heating, the fitness for service of the steel requires further evaluation. Note that this is an extremely unlikely scenario in bridge fires and should only be considered for abnormal circumstances are expected … Spalling where the concrete has fallen off is easy to visually detect.

Fire will have no effect on the stress concentration effects since the weldment geometry will not change. There may actually be a beneficial effect in that fire heating may act like a stress relief treatment that reduces the residual stresses.

Even if the trucks had been loaded with jet fuel and had not been put out by water cannons (after they were used on the Water Protectors), the trucks were not even actually on the bridge, let alone in the center of it. I submit that continuing to allow the lies to force people — including emergency services providers — to go an hour out of the way on dangerous winter roads to get to and from town is criminal. The lies that continue being spread must be challenged by authorities, perhaps the same ones who should be stopping the continuing work on the pipeline. Apparently, discussions are underway between North Dakota’s governor and Dave Archambault, chair of the Standing Rock Tribal Council, to reopen the bridge, but instead of opening it or clearing the barriers so someone can check it for structural damage, more barriers are placed on it. Indeed, the heavy concrete barriers themselves likely weigh more than a moving truck.

The authorities continue to say that the only reason it remains unopened is because the bridge’s safety was compromised by the burning trucks. Even the tribal chair has declared this to be the case according to an excellent report by C.S. Hagen of the High Plains Reader, who covered the story of the confrontation on the bridge the night the militia that shot water cannons at the Water Protectors in freezing weather and horribly damaged the arm of Sophia Wilansky when witnesses say a police officer counted to five before throwing a concussion grenade (which, of course, the police have denied doing, as they have denied using the water cannons for any purpose other than putting out the fires the protesters made — and the only ones they made were to warm people up who had been sprayed!)

“North Dakota Department of Transportation has closed the Backwater Bridge due to damage caused after protesters set numerous fires on the bridge October 27,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported. “In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested Morton County to prevent protesters from trespassing on USACE land north of the camp.”Archambault said reports Backwater Bridge is damaged are not true, and an excuse for law enforcement to block Highway 1806.

I wonder if the Spirits had not protected the Water Protectors on the bridge last night and one of the bullets would have fatally hit someone in the head, if more officials would start to challenge the treachery and deceptions that continue to define the oil industry’s efforts to continue their destruction?

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