By Joergen Ostensen
Environmental activist, Erin Schrode, spoke to me on Tuesday in an interview for The Anchor. Previously, she had been the subject of an Anchor editorial which condemned the actions of police at Standing Rock, North Dakota. The police shot her with a rubber bullet while she was overtly acting as a journalist. The editorial also discussed that the lack of coverage of this event was a disservice to democracy. This is the first part of a four part series of articles resulting from my conversation.
Erin Schrode described her shooting at Standing Rock by a “militarized police officer” for The Anchor, indicating that she believes that this attack is representative of a larger issue. “It’s clear that law enforcement was trying to stifle and silence the media coverage of what’s happening at Standing Rock.”
Schrode described the scene in Standing Rock, on November 2nd, the day of her shooting, for The Anchor. “There were police officers there from multiple states and all levels armed with tear gas…pepper spray…and rubber bullets.” The police wanted the water protectors to return to the side of the lake that Schrode was on. “I was standing, with two feet firmly planted on the shore to which the police officers wanted the water protectors to retreat.”
She was there to act as a journalist and was speaking to a Native American man. As she said, “…I was conducting an interview.” Then something happened that took her by surprise. “[In] the middle of the interview I felt a devastating blow to my lower back.” She had been shot from behind by a rubber bullet, which had been fired by the police. “…I whipped my head around and I saw three officers on a boat…and one of them had just shot me, had fired, what we now know, is a rubber bullet, out of a grenade launcher at point blank range…I doubled over in pain, it was quite a horrific scene.” This information can be verified by the existence of a video that confirms what Schrode said.
Schrode said that she was not warned in any manner and cites the video as proof. “No [warning]…absolutely none…many people were saying you deserved that, you were being violent…in the video you can so clearly see that there is absolutely no confrontation, no violence…no audible warning, visual warnings…from the police.”
Schrode discussed why this particular shooting was odd. “There were no bullets, no pepper spray, no mace, on our side of the river all day, save that one gun shot. It was the only act of violence on that side of the river the entire day…I was absolutely surprised…To think that an armed officer would fire at not just a peaceful person, but someone whose back was to them clearly doing nothing except holding up a camera and conducting an interview appalled me.”
She then corroborated what The Anchor’s editors had hypothesized in our editorial. “It’s clear that law enforcement was trying to stifle and silence the media coverage of what’s happening at Standing Rock.” Schrode cited other journalists who were arrested by police, in similar circumstances: Shailene Woodley, Amy Goodman and Deia Schlosberg. Although she did point out that she did not know any other journalists who had been shot.
Schrode went on to describe the actions of the police after the incident saying that Morton County Police Department “categorically denied” that they had shot her. She brought up the fact that the governor of North Dakota had declared the situation a state of emergency which gave the police more liberties with respect to their actions toward water protectors.
The police, she said, are supposed to protect the citizens and that was not the case at Standing Rock. “They were”, she said, “…so clearly working to defend the interests of oil companies, of Energy Transfer Partners, of an outside cooperation.”
Schrode deplored the behavior of the police at Standing Rock. “I saw civil rights violations happening left and right. This [her shooting] was absolute use of excessive force.” However it was far from specific to her, “Over and over again, rubber bullets, water canons, pepper spray, mace, tear gas. The way that they were brutally oppressing and arresting people. The way that they cleared the front lines camp…they ripped people out of…prayer circles…flipped open teepees with…the tops of assault rifles.” These atrocities represent a longstanding pattern of abuse toward indigenous people in the United States. “These Native Americans…said this is like the calvary all over again…only instead of shotguns…they’re using M-16s.”
Erin stressed that the point of her posting the video and telling this story was not to garner attention for herself. “This is not to take away from the bravery of the water protectors on the front lines. This is not to take away from the power of non-violent direct action. This is not to take away from the history of oppression…but its to point out…this egregious use of excessive force.”
The next article will look at Erin Schrode’s perspective on the issues surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline.