The police now say I was not shot. A grenade launcher fired a rubber bullet at me, according to multiple eyewitnesses, yet law enforcement officials are denying the very fact that I was shot. Dozens witnessed it firsthand, including two legal observers, videographers and photographers captured the direct aftermath, a medic and a doctor treated my injury and provided a signed MD statement, and I came forward to file reports and give testimony to the ACLU and Standing Rock lawyer collective. Plus I have inadvertent proof in realtime video of the interview I was conducting on my camera at the precise moment when I was shot: facebook.com/erinschrode/posts/10209534283008328.
I never feared the police. Now I do. Not only because I was shot by those I trusted to protect my safety and keep the peace, but because it demonstrates the ease with which truth can be erased and narratives warped.
The man on the right fired the rubber bullet at me out of that very grenade launcher, according to eyewitness accounts, in this photo taken moments after by Josh Fox. Militarized police aboard the Game Warden boat wielded automatic assault weapons, dressed in full camouflage fatigues with helmet, goggles, and gas masks, and without any visible name or unit identification. I refer to them as militarized police because I have only seen that level of armament in photographs from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan – and yes, Baltimore and Ferguson too.
In response to my story gaining traction online, media reached out to the police department for comment. "Astonishingly, local police are not just attempting to tell a different story about the incident. They’re refusing to say it even happened at all,” writes Fusion. "A spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Office told [Fusion] that, while officers are aware of the footage, they have no way to prove Schrode was actually shot. 'We don’t even know if that’s even true,' spokeswoman Donnell Preskey told [Fusion]. 'We’re not confirming that that’s even the case.' In the video, a shot can clearly be heard ringing out. Schrode’s camera is immediately sent haywire, and she cries out in pain. But Preskey said the video 'doesn’t tell me anything.’” Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told a reporter for Outside Magazine that he believed the incident didn’t happen. Lieutenant Tom Iverson, the North Dakota Highway Patrol Public Information Officer, said on local television that my video had “terrible optics” and “we are not aware of her being shot."
If police are actually unaware that a rubber bullet was discharged and struck an individual, that is a massive issue in and of itself. I was hit by a ~37" millimeter rubber bullet, which is ironically referred to as "less lethal" force. For every 90 people hit by a rubber bullet, 2 die, 18 suffer permanent disabilities, and 44 require hospital treatment, according to one study. Where is the accountability? Especially given the fact that eyewitnesses say the rubber bullet was launched out of a grenade launcher, which is used for smoke or teargas to disperse crowds and designed to knock down doors from a 20-foot range. A military expert said there is no standard training for that round at that range, only provided for last-resort self defense before bullets.
I will continue to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters at Standing Rock, though the thought of being within striking distance of police brings on a wave of terror in a way that it never did prior to Wednesday. I can understand the trauma and PTSD of which the Native Americans speak, though mine is not compounded with the historic trauma of hundreds of years of attack and oppression by military forces. I am nervous and on edge, though my fear is no where near on par with that of black men and women who face the omnipresent threat of violence at the hands of police. I tremble and shutter at the sight of raised weapons or loud sounds, unable to fathom the degree of danger our soldiers and veterans endure.
One other man was shot with a rubber bullet that day; he was close to the officers, hit in the back of his ribs and is still coughing up blood days later. I have returned to see the doctor for pain and tension in my back/hip/leg, wherein they reminded me that this type of injury from a gunshot takes weeks for recovery. I am grateful to be alive, that I was not permanently maimed or shot lethally. Too many videos show people – specifically black men – shot dead by armed officers. Rarely does a camera presence or recording change a thing.
An elder imparted his wisdom earlier today: Police operate from fear, that’s what they know. When we operate out of hate, we’re capable of dehumanizing each other.
To the man who fired a gun at me: I forgive you, for you are a part of a broken, militant system that trains armed forces to act out of fear. I hope for healthy dialogue and peaceful relations between Water Protectors and law enforcement at all levels, for the safety and benefit of our communities and planet. I pray for you, that you never have a child or loved one shot or pepper sprayed or maced without cause.
What did I do wrong? I keep asking myself that question. My two feet were firmly planted on Army Corps of Engineers public land, on the very bank to which cops were shouting for the few dozen brave Water Protectors (who had entered the river, still on ACE land) to retreat. I was interviewing a man on camera to document the happenings at Standing Rock, such that this critical message reaches more eyes and ears. I never once engaged with or heard a word from police to move or to stop what I was doing, nor did anyone on our bank.
Were the police aiming at me because I was filming? Was it an attempt to silence journalists? There is a pattern of targeting the press at Standing Rock. Actress Shailene Woodley was arrested while livestreaming to Facebook from her iPhone. Journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was charged with criminal trespassing for filming the dogs being set upon Water Protectors. Producer Deia Schlosberg was held in jail for 53 hours for documenting a nonviolent pipeline action in solidarity and now faces a 45 year sentence.
Or was it random?
A friend tweeted: "It takes America seeing what they did in #StandingRock to a peaceful white woman to accept what they are doing to our indigenous family." Another posted: “It's honestly sad that it took what happened to @ErinSchrode for more people to take offense for what's happening to the Natives! #NoDAPL." I agree.
As I wrote earlier, I do not wish to divert focus away from the bravery of the Water Protectors, from the power of nonviolent direct action, from the people fighting for their lives and for our futures – but I want you to witness the indiscriminate use of excessive force firsthand. We need to amplify these atrocities, these tragedies, these wrongs for maximum attention and swift action by our President, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Justice, and North Dakota government.
A shot will not silence me, will not stop our movement, will not halt progress. What is happening at Standing Rock is too important for a livable climate, for clean water, for human rights, for justice, for Native sovereignty, for innumerable fights that have converged on this sacred land. I am humbled to be alongside a growing number of peaceful, prayerful human beings, who have my back, as I have theirs. There is immense power in the hope and beauty of this urgent fight. I add my voice to the call: join us here to #StandWithStandingRock at this pivotal moment in history.