WATERBOARDING Amongst Torture Claims at #StandingRock
On Thursday, October 27, scores of law enforcement officers from seven different states showed up with riot gear, armored vehicles, and military weaponry to clear away Standing Rock’s newest camp, the “1851 Treaty Camp.” The camp stands directly in the path of the Dakota Access pipeline. Tipis and sweat lodges were destroyed. Vehicles were set ablaze. More than 140 protesters were arrested.
The county sheriff is claiming the water protectors were violent and that police were stopping a riot. But hours of live video feed from people caught in the confrontation showed instead a military-style assault on unarmed people: police beating people with batons, police with assault rifles, chemical mace, guns firing rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, tasers.
Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, has maintained that its citizens and supporters are engaging in peaceful, nonviolent expressions of their opposition to the pipeline.
Tara Houska, national campaigns director for the Native environmental group Honor the Earth, and Thane Maxwell, an organizer with Honor the Earth, have been at the camp for months. They describe what is happening:
What are the incidents of torture that have been reported?
Arrestees have reported numerous experiences of abuse and torture while in police custody. Folks have been strip-searched for misdemeanor charges, and there are reports that women have been left naked in their cells and harassed by male guards. Native arrestees have had their braids undone and pawed through for an alleged “weapons search” in what is a clear effort to demean. Others have had hoods placed over their heads, been incarcerated in dog kennels due to lack of cell space, or marked with numbers on their skin. Amnesty International classifies these practices as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment (CID),” which is illegal under international and U.S. law. Water protectors who locked themselves to construction equipment have also reported the use of waterboarding and pain compliance techniques such as zip-tying people in contorted positions for hours at a time. These are internationally recognized as methods of torture.
I heard police are targeting medics and journalists. Is this a recognized tactic?
Yes. People know about Amy Goodman’s charges, but many other members of the press have suffered physical violence, arrest, detention, and confiscation of equipment. Journalists are often targeted during confrontations because they possess and disseminate evidence of police brutality and human rights violations. Medics are also targeted because they make it possible for protectors to continue fighting the Dakota Access pipeline on the frontlines.
Arrestees have reported numerous experiences of abuse and torture while in police custody.
These are recognized combat tactics, and if it were actually a war, clear violations of Geneva Convention humanitarian rules. Clearly identifiable medics have been shot in the back with less-lethal ammunition while attending to patients. On Thursday, several people saw police use batons to hit two medics who were sitting on the back of a vehicle, slowly retreating from the police line. They also pulled the driver out of the car while it was moving, and it continued into the crowd. Luckily, a bystander jumped in the car and stopped it before it hit anyone.
Did they really shoot horses?
Yes. On Thursday, I saw the police shoot many rubber bullets at a horse at point blank range. Police in ATVs also chased horses in full gallop herding buffalo towards the confrontation, and shot them with both rubber bullets and live ammunition. One horse did not survive.