The latest evidence of police violence at the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota: A journalist was shot by a rubber bullet, on camera, while interviewing a water protector, the preferred name for protesters in the area, on Thursday.
The shot came out of nowhere. As Fusion reported, journalist and activist Erin Schrode was recording an interview, asking one of the water protectors to explain what was going on, as a line of law enforcement officials stood in riot gear in front of activists standing in the river. The second after, a shot can be heard in the video. Schrode took a photo of the militarized police who allegedly shot her.
“I couldn’t fathom that I’d just been hit. Why would they target me? Why would they shoot anyone?” Schrode told Fusion. “There was absolutely nothing violent, aggressive, provocative going on at the protests yesterday.”
Schrode wrote on Facebook that she is “hurting” but “will be okay,” and that the focus should be on the movement and the excessive violence water protectors and allies are facing.
Law enforcement abuses have been well-documented, particularly over the past two years because of police officers’ response to Black Lives Matter protests. Separate reviews by the Department of Justice of both the Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore police departments following the deaths of Mike Brown, 18, and Freddie Gray, 25, showed police infringed upon activists’ First Amendment–protected activities.
Nonetheless, police violence has been escalating over the past few months at Standing Rock. In September, Dakota Access Pipeline contractors hired security staffers who were caught using dogs to attack activists. More than 100 people were arrested on October 24. At least 141 people were then arrested all at once during a camp raid three days later. There are also reports of law enforcement wearing riot gear, traveling in armored vehicles, and subjecting people to solitary confinement and strip searches while in police custody.
And as we saw in Ferguson two years ago, journalists aren’t immune from becoming law enforcement targets. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant for Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman in September for “rioting” after capturing the attack dog footage that finally made mainstream media outlets pay attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance efforts.
"This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press," Goodman said in a statement. "I was doing my job by covering pipeline guards unleashing dogs and pepper spray on Native American protesters.”
The riot charge against Goodman was ultimately rejected. Yet the continued push to quell resistance efforts through insidious legal tactics or physical violence to anyone participating in the resistance efforts, even journalists bearing witness, sends a chilling message that this story shouldn’t be told — and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
As Vox’s Brad Plumer explained, even if “oil pipelines [like the Dakota Access Pipeline] are less accident-prone than trains, they’ve certainly been known to leak, with destructive results.” For the Standing Rock Sioux, that includes the fact that the pipeline could threaten their water supply.
But the resistance at Standing Rock resonates deeply because it is only the latest example of America’s refusal to respect indigenous people’s rights to self-determination. The Standing Rock Sioux are their own sovereign nation. The federal government is supposed to treat them as such. Lack of intervention, coupled with continually minimizing or ignoring their concerns and police violence, is the 2016 version of centuries-long breaches of contract.
Despite this, Schrode said she refuses to back down.
“This is not about me,” she wrote on Facebook, “but I am here — and will remain here — to cover and amplify truth and bravery on the ground with my colleagues.”