Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Franken wants 'excessive and unnecessary' spraying of pipeline protesters investigated

"We're just not going to let people, protesters in large groups, come in and threaten officers," the sheriff said.

Reports of Standing Rock protesters being blasted with water in freezing temperatures Sunday night quickly led to criticism from demonstrators and others – including one of Minnesota's most prominent lawmakers.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said they don't have "water cannons," the term many people had used in reference to the spraying.

"This is just a fire hose," he said Monday at a news conference (here's video of it), noting the fire trucks were on the scene because of blazes that had been started.

The clashes began around 6 p.m. at Backwater Bridge about a mile south of where the pipeline is intended to go, and Kirchmeier said the 400 or so protesters were "acting very aggressively." Demonstrators were throwing rocks, bottles, and other debris at officers. There was also an explosion (source unknown), and more fires that popped up over the hours.

So they brought fire trucks in to put those out. And then field commanders on the scene used the hoses as a "tool" to help "quell" the situation, Kirchmeier said.

"As a result of that, some of the water was used to repel some of the protest activities that were occurring," he continued. "It was used at a time to when they were aggressive toward the officers, and when that was no longer occurring, the water wasn't used anymore. It was sprayed more as a mist and we didn't want to get it directly on them, but we wanted to use it as a measure to help keep everybody safe in this."

Video of the hoses being used

Here's some video of Sunday night, first from a photographer:

Posted by Josué Rivas Fotographer on Sunday, November 20, 2016

And also via Unicorn Riot:

Morton County Sheriff spokesman Rob Keller told NBC that no water cannons were used Sunday night and water was only deployed to put out fires set by #NoDAPL water protectors.

Posted by Unicorn Riot on Monday, November 21, 2016

Temperatures that night from 6 p.m. through midnight were in the low to mid 20s, so below freezing.

One arrest was made Sunday night. One officer was hit in the head with a rock and injured.

The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council said they addressed about 300 injuries from Sunday night, including internal bleeding and eye injuries caused by rubber bullets.

Hoses aren't "normally" used as a tool, but in this case it was the best option at the time, Kirchmeier said, noting officers did take into account the temperature.

"We're just not going to let people, protesters in large groups, come in and threaten officers," he said. "That's not happening."

'Excessive and unnecessary,' and 'extremely dangerous'

One of the people who has serious concerns about the use of water against protesters is Sen. Al Franken.

He sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch with the Department of Justice, asking her to investigate the use of force by law enforcement, and also to do something to stop things form escalating.

"The reported use of water cannons for crowd control in sub-freezing temperatures is excessive and unnecessary, and I urge you to take action to protect the First Amendment rights of protestors, and the physical safety of all involved parties," Franken wrote. "Video of the incident appears to show that the water cannons were not simply being used for fire control, or even crowd control, but were often directed at small crowds or even individual protesters. Combined with the onset of wintry weather, water cannons are extremely dangerous and potentially lethal weapons, and I urge you to investigate their use on protesters."

Franken's full letter can be read here.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is calling for the president to come out against law enforcement's tactics, saying peaceful protesters were hit with unlawful tactics even though the pipeline company doesn't yet have permission to build under Lake Oahe (which is still the case).

Next Up

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.03.06 AM

Charges: Man shot Uber Eats driver making a delivery in Cottage Grove

Otis Donnell Shipp was charged with second-degree attempted murder after turning himself in on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.36.14 AM

Waterfront hotel in Duluth sustains damage in kitchen fire

Authorities estimate the damage at around $75,000.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.15.18 AM

Large groups of thieves target 2 Twin Cities Best Buys on Black Friday

It bears similarities to the flash-mob style thefts seen recently in California.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

Kirill Kaprizov

Kaprizov gets into the holiday spirit to rout Jets

Kirill Kaprizov's four points led the Wild to a 7-1 victory.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: Cure to Vikings' disrupted season lies in an explosive passing game

The Vikings go to San Francisco knowing that a win would be a huge boost to their playoff hopes.

Related

The protested North Dakota pipeline will be blocked for (at least) a bit longer

The possibility of letting the pipeline company drill underneath Lake Oahe has been under review.

Sorting out which Minnesota agencies are helping at ND pipeline protests – and why

One of the big questions: Why are Minnesota law enforcement agencies at the scene of the North Dakota protest?

Sheriff: More than 80 arrested in Dakota Access Pipeline protest

Officials say a group of about 300 protesters marched onto a private construction site near the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Rally against Hennepin Co. Sheriff's involvement with N.D. pipeline

Activists rally against Hennepin County's involvement in the North Dakota pipeline protests.

More protesters arrested at Standing Rock, as drilling equipment moves into place

The pipeline company said this week it's moving drilling equipment to Lake Oahe.

A reroute of the protested ND oil pipeline is being considered, Obama says

The president said they'll "let it play out" for a bit longer.

Pipeline protests: Officials shoot drone that attacked a helicopter

People on board the helicopter say they were "in fear of their lives."

Let's talk about that Standing Rock check-in post getting shared on Facebook

A Facebook post is telling people to check in at Standing Rock to "confuse" law enforcement.