While the tension between Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and local law enforcement officials has been intensifying, the situation took a dangerous turn as the Morton County Sheriffs Department used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons on the demonstrators on the evening of Nov. 20.
— IndigenousEnviroNet (@IENearth) November 21, 2016
The use of water cannons is especially frightening given that temperatures in the region have dropped below freezing and protesters could catch hypothermia as a result.
In a Facebook post, the police department said hundreds of protesters were creating fires and attempting to breach a police barricade to reach a nearby highway.
Jade Begay, a spokeswoman for the Indigenous Environmental Network, responded to the police's actions in an interview with The Guardian. Begay said the barricade is blocking a direct route from Standing Rock to Bismarck, a nearby big city. "The purpose of this action was to do something to remove that barricade because it's dangerous," Begay said.
As for the reported fires, Begay said activists had created two bonfires to keep people warm and cook food. In addition, Begay reported 167 injuries and seven hospitalizations.
The shocking video above gives a terrifying look at the ongoing conflict.