On Sunday #NoDAPL protesters clashed with law enforcement officers while trying to break through a roadblock on the Backwater Bridge which was damaged during a previous riot. One tactic the cops used to hold the rioters back was deploying a fire hose.
Today on my radio show on WDAY AM9770 the deputy who was manning that hose spoke out. I verified his identity, and his appearance on my show was coordinated with state public relations officials, but he asked that I not use his name due to harassment cops have been facing during the protests (more on that here).
You can hear the audio from our interview below.
The deputy told me that one reason the hose came into play was because the wind was making it difficult to use pepper spray to hold the rioters back.
“The wind was against us that day,” he said. “All those things kept blowing back in our face. We officers just ate it.”
He said a fire truck was brought to the scene because of fires set by the protesters, but that it wasn’t safe for the firefighters to engage the flames directly.
“Because of the escalating violence we didn’t want the firefighters to be out there,” he told me. “I happen to be a volunteer firefighter for the community I’m in so I took the hoses. I went up on the MRAP turret in order to get those fires. They were behind some dump trucks out there.”
I asked him if he felt it was in appropriate to spray protesters in sub-freezing temperatures, something which has drawn widespread criticism since Sunday.
“Absolutely not,” he told me, going on to explain how the hose came to be used for crowd control.
“When we first showed up there were only approximately 60 officers there. When I looked out we saw at least 400 that were in contact with us. Later when it got dark I remember looking out over the crowd and all I could see were faces and heads as far as I could possibly see. I would say there were at least a thousand people out there. It was very overwhelming for the officers,” he said. “I know a lot of officers didn’t know how we were going to handle the situation or control it. As people were moving right up to the wire that was in stalled there they were laying plywood logs over the wire and were trying to climb over the top of it. We had the hose there and it seemed like the only possibility, the only way, we could try and push them back. I did use that hose to push back people off the wire. And then used it to push the plywood and stuff they’d laid over back off the wire.”
“These hoses were very effective in making [the protesters] cold and making them get away from us,” he added.
He also noted that many of the protesters chose not to get wet by heeding law enforcement warnings to stay away from the roadblock.
“It seemed the peaceful protesters as you might call them who were there stayed back out of the range of the water. You could see the line form back away from that water so that they wouldn’t come forward any more,” the deputy said. “I would call them more peaceful protesters. The agitators, many of them stayed out there in the water and continued to harass, continued to try and push forward, continue to try and cut chains, cut wire, and come at us.”
Many critics of the law enforcement response have suggested that officers were aggressive toward the protesters, but when I asked the deputy if law enforcement ever advanced from the roadblock toward the protesters he said “absolutely not.”
“None of us wanted to move forward,” he continued. “None of us wanted to do that. We just held our line. We have to hold our line, because if those people get through those people who are trying to hurt us, what are they going to do to the good people of the state who aren’t trained to defend themselves?”
“We held that line,” he added. “We told them ‘go back to your camp, but don’t come out here and attack us’.”
But there were attacks on the deputy and his fellow officers from the protesters.
“There were rocks, chunks of asphalt,” he said. “I know I was hit at least twelve times. There was a gallon jug of water that hit me and fell down into the vehicle and hit another officer in the back of the head that was inside the MRAP.”
And the protesters weren’t just throwing things, he said. “We know there were slingshots. I saw nuts on top of the MRAP,” explaining that the “nuts” in question are the metal kind you use with bolts. “I could hear them whizzing by my head.”
He also said the protesters weren’t shy about using racial taunts aimed at black, Hispanic, and Native American officers who were on the line.
“All night they were screaming at us, trying to taunt us, trying to I guess just push us. There were a lot of racial slurs thrown,” he said. “I didn’t personally hear those, the officers that I work with I talked to them later and they were talking about the racial things that were said to them. Trying to taunt them. Trying to make them angry. Trying to make them come at them. Trying to make them look bad.”
And who was making these racial taunts?
“The majority of the people I see out there were white people,” the deputy told me.
Here’s the full audio: