Watching history, live from Standing Rock

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UPDATE,  10 a.m. October 28: More than 100 people were arrested on October 27. Police fired beanbag rounds and teargas. Meanwhile, an Oregon jury  said that the armed white men who forcibly occupied federal offices for 41 days are not guilty of anything. For more reports on October 27, see: 

When I tune in to the live Facebook feed, less than an hour after  it begins, some 4,000 people are watching police move in on protesters – water protectors – who have barricaded Highway 1806 in North Dakota. They are trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, trying to protect the waters of the Missouri River from the oil pipeline that is planned to run under the river, trying to protect sacred sites of the Dakota Sioux people. This is the frontline camp, the north camp. Less than an hour later, the number is up to 16,000 people and climbing.

A young Native American man, E’esha Hoferer broadcasts live from the site, saying he is reporting for One Nation TV. We hear the police telling protesters to move south, to take their tents with them. We see people carrying straw bales and American flags. We hear the police broadcast loud, ululating noise to disrupt communications or to warn people to move back. We see the lines of law enforcement, like wings extending in both directions from their vehicles on the road.

“They’re getting closer,” he says.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-2-10-40-pm“Please walk to the south,” the police repeat, “or else you will be arrested.”

E’esha Hoferer repeats: We are here to defend out sacred sites. We are here are protecting the water. Water is life. We are protecting water for all of you. We are people of prayer. We are not violent. We need you here. We need you to tweet the leaders. Tweet to Barack Obama.

“They want us to move back from this camp. This is Ground Zero. … We are taking this treaty land back.”

“These are our burial sites. Just because we don’t have crosses don’t mean they are not there.”

The police are getting closer to the barricade of straw bales across theroad. Water protectors surround the straw bales, carrying flags.

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 3.41.46 PM.png“If my live feed cuts out, you know why,” Hoferer says.

“We are moving now,” the police say.

“We are American citizens, too. We have our own rights. We are Native American people. We are here to protect our land,” Hoferer says.

“You have to come down now. If you do not come off the road, you will be arrested,” the police say.

Someone is kneeling in the grass in front of the police.

“This is Standing Rock land. This is Sioux land. This is treaty land.”

A helicopter flies across the road, north of the police line.

“I hope that’s water,” the police say. “I hope that’s water. You need to move back.” The camera pans the line of police, some wearing plastic face shields, some carrying batons, some carrying guns. Now they are ordering Hoferer to come down from the roof where he is broadcasting.

He gets down, but says they are trying to censor the media. The feed deteriorates.

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 2.25.16 PM.pngThe Facebook feed says 25,000 people are watching – the numbers jump up and down.

The police say “Do not fire a bow and arrow towards us.”

The crowd of water protectors breaks into spontaneous laughter.

“Our ancestors are here with us,” Hoferer says. “30,000 people are watching the way you are treating us,” he tells police. Closer now, he pans the camera – batons, tear gas grenade launchers.

“We don’t want this water to be poisoned. … We are here to protect the water for you and for your generations. We love each and every one of you. We are here in prayer. We are here to protect the water for your kids. Your wife is going to call you and tell you to go home.”

The video feed stops, starts again. Police have crossed the straw bale barrier.

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 2.27.31 PM.png“Move south,” the police repeat over and over on the loudspeaker. “We don’t want to make arrests.”

Police and people are face to face. The video feed is choppy, pixilated, back in focus, pixilated again.

“They don’t have badge numbers, they don’t have names on them,” Hoferer says.

“Please move back from the vehicles,” the police say. The police move forward, closer to the Native American water protectors, closer to the young man with the camera.

“At the end of the day, are you going to be proud of what you did? … Those are our prayer ties. Don’t step on our prayer ties.”

“31,000 people are watching you at home,” Hoferer says.

And then we are not. The video ends.

And begins again. Stops. Starts.

Every time the feed dies, Hoferer starts another. “You are the media,” he says.

Facebook, Hoferer, and the rest of us on social media are not the only media. Mainstream media are all over the story (below), though nothing is as dramatic as the live video.

The Seattle Times has reporters posting updates through the afternoon:

“Update, 12:46 p.m. (Pacific Time):

“Police continue to push demonstrators south down the highway toward the protesters’ main camp about a half mile away. The front-line camp is owned by pipeline developers. Opponents began moving the camp there in the path of construction last weekend.

“The first arrest on Thursday was made there as police encircle the camp, moving closer and closer, foot by foot.

“’We need as much people as possible. They started spraying (pepper spray). They are pushing tents down,’ said Devin Blackcloud, a Standing Rock tribal member. ‘No one is budging. There are 150, 200 people willing to be arrested.’

“Some campers are running. Police pursued.”

The Chicago Tribune carries Associated Press reports from the scene:

“Sirens blared and officials told protesters over a loudspeaker to move out as they advanced slowly on the camp from the north and west. Two helicopters and an airplane monitored the operation from the air.

“After an initial confrontation on a highway outside the camp, the majority of the protesters retreated back to the camp where they were awaiting the arrival of the authorities.

“An Associated Press reporter at the scene said that about 200 protesters remain at the camp, listening to elders speak, burning sage and praying.”

I am posting this at 3:30 p.m. The stand-off — the confrontation — continues. Police keep moving south, slowly but inexorably pushing back the people of the encampment at Highway 1806. They promise to return teepees and tents. They say they will not come to the main camp, Oceti Sakowin.

“They have us surrounded, my people, my relatives,” Hoferer says.

We hear police ordering him to get down from the pick-up where he is broadcasting, or he will be pepper sprayed.

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