At least 167 injured by police at Standing Rock. #NoDAPL

11.20.16 Violence at Standing Rock

Nov 21, 2016 · 5 min read
Barb wires in front lines at Standing Rock. 11.20.16 Screenshot of MASH video by Nick Kalbach

Tonight, I held a young man’s hands after pouring milk of magnesia into his eyes as he cried and wailed in pain after being a victim of a violent tear gas attack. I was making my way to the front lines carrying a backpack with goggles, water, ear plugs, hand warmers, a blanket and many other items that have become necessary in fighting against a militarized force that only protects the interests of an oil pipeline. I saw a medic in a minivan yelling for people to get out of the way as she transported this young man in the crowded back seat. I could see he was in incredible pain, “I have milk of magnesia!” I yelled at her. “GET IN THE VAN!” she yelled back at me. So I jumped into the front seat to help him. “Don’t worry, I got you!” I told him, the van making its way through the bumpy road as I leaned from the front seat to the back. “You’re gonna be fine!” yelled Holly, a first responder in her everyday life. “What’s your name? Blink your eyes” I told the young man. “I don’t want to say, I don’t want to go to the hospital, I’m from Australia, I’ll get deported,” he said back to me in tears and in pain. “Don’t worry, no one here is gonna deport you.” I assured him as we made our way down the hundreds of flags that make up the entrance of the camp. A whirlwind of thoughts swirled through my mind on our current immigration system, the incoming president, the thousands detained in detention centers, the fight for justice and what that fight looks like across this county. Just so many thoughts as I reassured this young man as he cried out in pain. Soon, we were at the medic tent and he was taken in. Holly and I grabbed masks to pass out and we headed back in.

A medic helps a woman hit by tear gas. 11.20.16 Screenshot of MASH video by Nick Kalbach

Back on Highway 1806, just north of the Oceti Sakowin camp, I jumped out of the car, more prepared, more ready to help those in need. I saw grandmothers crying from pain, grown men in tears throwing up from the toxic fumes, young women shivering from the cold temperatures after being blasted with a water cannon. I stood there almost frozen with my backpack as people rushed in front of me in chaos. It was a state of war. A war being fought in our own land over the protection of water. A war in which a militarized state is treating its own citizens like they’re engaging with the enemy.

At some point after helping multiple people suffering from hypothermia, nausea, and gas, I got caught up in a blast of three tear gas bombs. The seconds were slow and at that moment I thought, “oh shit.” I looked up and realized how close I was to the barb wire and the physical front line. I closed my eyes immediately and tried to control my breath. “It’s going to be ok, Wendy, you’re gonna be fine” I told myself. I felt the gas come into my lungs, fast, hot and toxic. I opened my eyes for a moment and felt the sting hit. I gagged. I heard all those around me gag, yell in pain and cry out. I kept my eyes shut, I held my breath. At that moment, I remembered the tunnel games, hold your breath Wendy, you can do this. I remember pretending to be the Little Mermaid and if she could swim to the surface, so could I. In this moment, this random things I did as a child, seem to have a purpose. Small breath, count to ten, stay calm. Blindly I kept walking, hearing the shuffling of people around. “STAY CALM! DON’T PUSH!” I heard someone yell out. When I felt we had walked a safe distance, I opened my eyes again. I was fine, I caught my breath, feeling the cold crisp air fill my lungs. I exhaled. I coughed for a good minute. Around me, people were crying, their eyes yellow from the gas. I began to pour more milk of magnesia, someone offered me water, a young women that I helped told her sister, “Don’t tell mom this happened, she’ll be so worried.” I thought of my own family and my own mother who worries so much.

Some twenty minutes later, a flash grenade went off and I felt a slew of tiny pellets hit the left side of my face. I’m a little swollen and red, but I’m not deeply hurt. No longer at the very front of the lines, I kept helping as much as I could. Some people had blankets, someone brought more water and someone else passed some bread. I reached in to my pocket and realized in the mayhem, I lost my phone. I hope it’s found somewhere.

A medic shared that at least 167 people were injured tonight. Those are the ones that are counted.

Never in my life have I experienced such raw and vicious human rights abuses. A police held a water cannon directly behind a friends head, it could have given him a concussion. Flash grenades where shot directly at people. Rubber bullets were shot at short distances, one I’m told, hit a pregnant woman. This isn’t a war in a developing nation, this isn’t a fight against a terrorist group, this is a blatant display of power in which the American government is allowing the police treat American citizens as criminals in the name of a pipeline and profit.

They are scared. They are scared of the power of prayer, the power of people. That is why they treated us the way they did.

A tear gas canister is thrown by police into the crowd. 11.20.16 Screenshot of MASH video by Nick Kalbach

The news will twist it and say that protestors started fires. Not true. The fires were started by tear gas canisters thrown by police that hit dry brush. Plain and simple.

I don’t know what to say anymore other than tonight is a night will live in my memory forever.


Written by

State Assemblymember AD51 (Los Angeles). Advocate for people, ready to work, ready to serve.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade