This is the way it happened.
We woke at 4:30AM ready to pray the sun up. It was early afternoon when they came. I was in a group of about 50 who sat down together, in a circle, in the path of the pipeline to protect the water.
We had no weapons. We prayed all day without stopping for food, water, or even in hearing screams come from the road behind us as officers leveraged any number of the tactical weapons they had come with: batons, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and sound cannons. At the sound of the chaos behind us on Hwy 1806 we leaned into each other tighter. The chaos behind us was never intended; folks had gathered in ceremony their to protect the water and to protect us. However some instigators within our own crowd, even some sold out natives, antagonized our young men and waved in the officers. Chaos. Fire, gas, rubber bullets, horses killed.
At a certain point, the officers reached us despite the efforts of our own protecters standing ground around us; they looked at the officers in their eyes and spoke to them – about the fact that they need water too, their wives and daughters need water too.
Rather than sitting down to pray with us, they pushed forward… they pushed our protectors and media more than a mile away to the point that we sat in prayer, surrounded by them and alone; we were weaponless, yet surrounded by bearcats, armored personnel carriers and riot police. It was all very eery feeling until the buffalo came over the hill, running toward us! Pilamaya Wakan Tanka. Unfortunately, quite quickly, a helicopter swooped in front of them, scaring them into a tangential direction.
The officers picked us off one-by-one starting with the stronger looking males. Warriors; they held strong and were treated horrible for it – hog tied to the point of purple hands.
An officer bent over to my ear and said, ” You’re being arrested for trespassing; if you resist you’ll be charged with a second misdemeanor for resisting arrest.”
I stood and walked with him across 1806 to the embankment. We waited there in our zip-tie cuffs as the chilly North Dakota, October sun set. Just behind us, as our elders sat facing the burial grounds – DAPL couldn’t resist immediate continued construction/destruction. Their tinted-window, 4-by-4’s lined the horizon, less than 50 meters away and they watched with smiles, IPhones pointing at us as their groms bulldozed the land in front of us and as they set night lights across 1806; they pointed and talked and smiled toward us and at the land across the road that we sat protecting all day, all fall, all summer; they pointed toward the tents and teepees and river beyond, alluding to their immediate plans for progression upon our departure to jail.
There on the embankment we waited for more than an hour to receive the numbers, mine 195, that have so aptly been reminisced to atrocious times of the past. These numbers were written on a plastic bag that our personal property was taken and stored away in to. We boarded the bus at dusk.
Being the last group to arrive at Morton County Jail it was only a short time that we waited before continuing our in-processing – stripped down to one layer. Important to note that in being stripped down to one layer, our clothes were stored away into a second plastic bag, a larger one in which the initial smaller, numbered bag with our personal property (for me, a bag with my cell phone and a disposable camera) was placed; it was then tied – Later, the bag of personal items would turn up “missing”. It somehow untied the larger bag it was in and removed itself to become missing.
Upon getting off of the bus I noticed the men had been placed into dog runs; the majority were in two and a third contained one person, a leader of the day; intimidation.
It was clear to me that the officers were frazzled at attempting to arrest all of us.
I sat in the dog run for merely a few minutes, ignorant to the hours of waiting and human rights violations that had occurred here for the many who had arrived before us.
I was called onto a white bus that took us to Cass County Jail. We boarded, wearing but one layer, and froze for the 4-hour drive to Fargo. Upon arriving, about 1 or 2AM, the captain at Cass gave us a sack lunch and Gatorade, the first food and drink we had received and certainly the first we had eaten since beginning our day in protection around noon. Eating with zip-tie cuffs, Fu@#%@#$ ridiculous – physically, and of course fundamentally, based on the conditions of our arrest.
It became clear almost immediately that the numbered bags that arrived with us didn’t match those written on our arms. We were in-processed… searched again, exposed to a PREA video for our safety, searched again – Strip Searched (!) – Yes! Had to undress in front of someone one, bend-over-and-cough searched ! Changed into oranges then, finally, sleep; or whatever takes place on a concrete bench with a 1-inch mat. 5AM by now. The gentleman’s bus came in after ours; I believe their day didn’t end until the sun had come up again.
Waited. Arraignment came – three blanket charges for all of us: misdemeanors for trespassing, inciting riot and a felony for conspiring to do harm with fire.
My actions throughout the day consisted of praying, weaponless. I’ve never prayed so much in my life.
Some wonderful person came along with something like to $200,000 to cover all of our bails ($1500), as well as the cost of releasing all of our cars from impound (about $700).
That missing bag, containing my cell phone and a disposable camera was returned a few days after being released. It was missing the camera which the state defense has seized and is creating a warrant for, to keep the photos as evidence. I’m one of the few lucky ones; others have damaged vehicles (mine was fine), destroyed teepees and tents (mine was the only one in perfect condition), broken chanupas and missing sacred items.
It’s as one of our legal representatives, who has spent a career practicing law in New York state, recently said to me, “… I’ve seen things in five days that I’ve never seen in my entire career.”
Upon our release we’ve been interviewing with representatives from the UN, and members of larger media outlets such as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. I’ll send along these links as I get them.
The story is finally getting out, what has taken so long?
Obama said he’ll see how protests over the next few weeks plays out, what is taking so long?