Police wearing riot gear shot Dakota Access Pipeline protesters with rubber bullets and unleashed streams of pepper spray into their faces on Wednesday, NBC News reported. The shooting and spraying took place at Cantapeta Creek, north of Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.
Protesters made their way to the river, as the pipeline construction is nearing the water. Demonstrators, who are calling themselves "water protectors," are against the pipeline because it would cut through the sacred Native American land and potentially pollute local tribes' drinking water.
Facebook live videos of the ongoing protests show demonstrators playing drums, singing and wading in the river water in front of armed police. Bullets and pepper spray began to fly after police dismantled a wooden bridge that protesters were using to access a sacred site across the river.
A member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe told NBC News that pipeline construction is currently "desecrating a lot of sacred sites" and that "a lot of the traditional ecological knowledge that we have — that Standing Rock has — shows that we have ceremonial sites up there, sacred sites, burial sites." This includes the site at the center of Wednesday's standoff.
According to protester Cempoalli Twenny, one police officer "kept his finger on the trigger" and shot around 10 shots at protesters.
"Trigger happy and police brutality all to protect a pipeline that will affect their children, as well," he wrote.
In one Facebook live video, protesters can be heard screaming at the police officers who are standing by the sacred burial site. When police begin shooting people in the water, protesters voice strong disapproval.
In a press release to NBC News, the Morton County Sheriff's Department said it used "less-than-lethal ammunition to control the situation" and stated that a man threw bottles at police officers.
"Officers also deployed pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the group of protesters who came across the water and camp at officers," the release said.
"There was absolutely no provocation of any kind," film director Josh Fox told NBC News. "The police pepper sprayed people sitting in the water."
This isn't the first clash with police during the protests to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. On Oct. 27, police clad in riot gear forcefully removed protesters from the construction site, arrested 141 people and fired shots at many others.