Violent Response to a Peaceful Action: Q&A with Sam Huselstein at Standing Rock


Rochester Catholic Worker, Sam Huselstein, witnessed last night’s violent response in Standing Rock. Sam’s version of last night’s events is much different than what other media outlets have been reporting. Thanks Sam for bearing witness and keeping Rochester up on what is happening out there! Stay safe…our thoughts and prayers are with you and all the protectors!

Below is a Question & Answer about the violent response to last night’s action at Standing Rock.

Rochester Catholic Worker: Hi Sam, last night you reported that there had been a violent response to an action. What was the action and what was the goal?

Sam Huselstein: The action was to remove the vehicles blocking the road at the north end of the bridge by camp. This road, 1806, is the fastest route for people traveling south who need to go to the hospital and also leads to the pipeline construction. The goal of moving the vehicles was to hopefully open up the roadway for people seeking medical attention as well as to open up a path for more direct action closer to the pipeline.

Rochester Catholic Worker: According to a CNN report on last night’s action (here), police said the protectors are not peaceful and that water was used to put out fires as well as to control the crowds.
“‘There are multiple fires being set by protesters on the bridge and in the area of the bridge,’ said Donnell Hushka, spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. ‘We have fire trucks on the scene they are using their fire hoses to put out the fires, wet the land around so fires don’t spread and they are also using water as crowd control.'” From your perspective, is this statement accurate?

Sam Huselstein: When I arrived there were no fires on the scene but the cannons were still being used. I was told this morning that some of the protectors were stomping out flames that were caused by weapons used by he police. Later in the night, controlled fires were lit to help keep people warm that were on scene since it was around 25 degrees last night. There is video of a firetruck trying to put out this fire and spraying people in the process. The fire was not on the bridge. As for crowd control, I spoke with a woman who was at the front of the action this morning and she reported they were spraying protectors sitting on the ground holding space. So no, from my perspective that report is very inaccurate.

Rochester Catholic Worker: You transported people to safety who were injured. How many and what were the nature of their injuries?

Sam Huselstein: I mainly transported medics and supplies and was on stand by for additional medical transport. The main injuries being reported were coughing and vomiting from the tear gas. Many were at risk of hypothermia and many were shot by rubber bullets. This morning I learned one man is in critical condition from being hit in the chest. Ambulances were coming and going most of the night. A representative from the medic tent said they treated over 200 last night.

Rochester Catholic Worker: After last nights conflict and with winter weather approaching, are protectors planning on leaving?

Sam Huselstein: These events triggered a lot of trauma for those who were present for the raid of the north camp. One women who I’ve come to recognize as one of the action leaders at camp left the debriefing this morning in tears. I ate dinner with a group I had been to previous actions with and who were on the front lines last night. They were very shaken by the violence and trauma they witnessed.

Rochester Catholic Worker: What is the morale like today?

Sam Huselstein: The camp is definitely grieving but everyone is supportive. A prayer ceremony was held on the bridge this morning. Those who were able to are continuing actions today to keep a presence in the eyes of the public, law enforcement, and the government.