Police Attack Unarmed Water Protectors w/ Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and Water Cannons; 300+ injured

UPDATE (6/12/17) –  Emails released by The Intercept as part of their investigation into leaked documents from DAPL security contractor TigerSwan include an “Intel Group” email thread which took place in real time the night of November 20, 2016.  The emails show local, state, and federal officials monitoring the presence of media at Backwater Bridge that night, including Unicorn Riot.  After law enforcement began using water cannons on the crowd of water protectors, Bismarck Police officer Lynn Wanner sent a joke to her colleagues in the Intel Group: “I guess it [water] isn’t life after all.”  Additional emails also show the ‘Intel Group’ conspiring to frame Sophia Wilansky as being responsible for her severe injuries that night, which witnesses say were caused by police atop an armored vehicle throwing a grenade directly at her as she was fleeing.

Cannon Ball, ND – Water protectors attempting to clear two damaged military trucks from Highway 1806 were met with a militarized response by law enforcement working to ensure the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Police used tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and more crowd control munitions (e.g. here, here, here, & here).

Water Protectors try to Clear 1806 Bridge met with Water Cannons, Tear Gas, Concussion Grenades & Rubber Bullets from Unicorn Riot.

Water protector returns a tear gas canister towards direction of police who shot it

At least 300 people were injured, updated reports indicated by Wednesday, November 23rd. Around midnight of November 20th, injuries to over 160 people were reported, as medics also confirmed that a 13-year-old girl was shot in the face by law enforcement, two people suffered cardiac arrests (at least one person is in critical condition), and many contusions and damage to hands resulted from rubber bullets. Many people were also experiencing hypothermia from the water cannons and have lung and eye irritation from tear gas and mace.

We were live on and off through the night as the standoff lasted over six hours.


Military trucks were placed blocking Highway 1806 and have been chained to concrete barricades since the battle of October 27th, when police forces raided the Oceti Sakowin 1851 treaty camp. The police have not allowed the road to be cleared since.

Starting around 5 p.m. CST on Sunday, November 20th, water protectors attempted to pull one of the two vehicles out of the road in attempts to clear the blocked pathway. They were met by police shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at them. Some tear gas canisters were tossed immediately back to police.

Rubber bullets were continually shot at those people who were attempting to push the truck out.

Water protectors attempting to open road on Hwy 1806

Police and military forces arrived and were seen sitting atop Bearcats and MRAP’s, pointing assault rifles and sniper rifles at unarmed water protectors from behind six feet tall razor wire.

Water protectors duck for cover behind a truck as militarized police look on beyond the razor wire

Eventually water protectors made use of a semi truck to remove one of the burnt law enforcement trucks from the highway.

The LRAD sound cannon was used throughout the day to push back the crowd of maybe a thousand water protectors attempting to clear the Hwy 1806 blockade.

A standoff that ensued for hours on the bridge happened when the gathered crowd attempted to remove the next barricaded truck.


The police started to use a water cannon as it was activated from the top of the MRAP. It was shot directly at water protectors who were standing on the highway attempting to clear the last remaining truck.


Although a Sheriff’s spokesmen stated to NBC that no water cannons were used, there remains plenty of footage of water cannons being used, as you can see below.

Despite temperatures below freezing and hovering around 24 degrees with a wind chill dipping to 15 degrees, police fired water cannons extensively at water protectors throughout the night. Morton County Sheriff Kirchmeier himself released a statement expressing concerns over the weather and its effects just two days before forces in his jurisdiction were filmed using water hoses for hours on end, before any fire was seen.


Throughout the night, water protectors on the frontlines used shields to protect themselves from the barrage of water.

Unarmed water protectors use shields and gas masks to protect themselves from police onslaught

Below is a video of shielded water protectors approaching the frontline of razor wire.

Amidst the freezing water, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades, dozens among dozens of tear gas canisters were shot off by police and military forces.


While documenting, a Unicorn Riot journalist was shot in the abdomen with a rubber bullet and their press badge was blown to pieces.


As the actions wound down and police continued using crowd control weapons, Unicorn Riot documented the police utilizing fire trucks to put out fires that water protectors were using to get warm after being doused with water hoses.


Below is a live feed from a drone that show some of the action from the night, including fires built over the shallowed out creeks that water protectors were using to warm up.

To watch our live feeds of the night, view below:

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