Sophomores Conner Corbridge and Theo Buchanan decided to go to Standing Rock with six other friends over second Block Break when sophomore Noah Hudnut explained the circumstances of the site, at which he has stayed for a block-long independent study. This is a pivotal time to support the protesters. On Oct. 22, both Theo and Conner were arrested, along with 125 other individuals.
The following interview is condensed and edited for the Catalyst:
Theo Buchanan: Originally I saw 21 police vehicles. I think they called for backup when they saw our numbers.
Conner Corbridge: Yeah the cars start coming around and they’re kind of unloading pretty far off. And they are maybe like 30 feet out and they start walling up and start making a tight line. And behind them there’s two armored trucks that eventually pull up. They’re called bear cats; they have turrets on them. There are vehicles in the back and this line of policeman. And we’re slowly, going up towards them. They come to us in waves [marching] forward a little bit and stop and hold their ground.
TB: Most of us have patches that say protect the sacred, or mni wichoni, which means water is life in Lakota. A lot of people are holding signs and banners and [repeating] to the cops, we come in peace, we come in prayer, we have women and children, we love you, we’re doing this for your water, for your children, it was explicitly being made clear every second, the peaceful intent of the protest.
CC: Yeah there was definitely, a lot of people who said make sure you don’t call it a protest. We’re protectors: we’re praying.
TB: Water protectors.
CC: I think, [in the first confrontation], the police who advanced first. They got really close and out of the speakers of this car, before they ask us to disperse, they just announce that we’re all under arrest.
Then they told us if you try to leave, you’ll be charged with fleeing. They’re yelling that and everyone else is like, yeah we’re peaceful go back. And eventually they stop, we walk back, there’s like a 10-foot buffer and pretty quickly it was like a snap, they definitely got an order to start arresting people.
TB: One of the cops has a big canister, you know like a fire extinguisher of pepper spray, and he’s threatening people with it. He goes over and very clearly instigates a protestor. He pushed a protester and the protester was pushed backward but then regained his ground, took a couple steps forward which is what the cop at least perceived as an act of aggression and then quickly pepper sprayed him all over his body and face. At this point I think that was a very clear scare tactic to show, this is not just for worse case scenarios, we are going to be using this pepper spray. And then random people were just being grabbed and arrested. Me and Conner were still holding our water is life banner, and so, Conner is identified as one of those weak points. Pretty quickly they’re grabbing the banner out of his hand.
CC: This brief conflict with the pepper spray, I later heard in jail, was the source of the engaging in a riot charge. [A cop] tries to grab the sign. I kind of let him have it and I’m trying to swat his hands away, but only for a few seconds before he grabs my forearm. And then the other cop grabs my entire arm and sticks his hand on my chest. They make sure that I’m down face first. And then they zip tie me.
TB: I see Conner get absolutely wrecked by these cops. If you know Conner, you can just imagine how long and gangly the whole thing looks and just the hair flying and the cops just smashing and it is your best friend just getting completely messed and it puts fear in a man. People are starting to get pretty fearful and ranks are being broken, that ultimately were arrested, tried to run and some of them did get away. That same fear that caused those people to run, caused most of us to coalesce into this sort of like amoeba where everybody is really just holding on super tight and the group, [and] at this point it’s clear they’re [arresting us] one by one. It’s quickly becoming clear we’re not going to be able to [get out]. So now the cops are in front of us and they are behind us and quickly those two groups are becoming a circle and we’re sort of a mob in the middle.
To listen to the full interview, tune in to the Catalyst Radio this Sunday.