Update from the Day of Action

It’s 8pm and I am sitting at the Prairie Knights Casino owned by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. It’s been an extremely long day and as I look around I see other tired Water Protectors intently staring at computer and cell phone screens trying to get enough bars or wireless connection to catch up on what the outside world did today in solidarity with Standing Rock. It is the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Standing Rock and we read that over 300 actions took place around the world. Here at Standing Rock, multiple actions and events took place targeting DAPL and the Army Corps of Engineers as we all feel the pressure and dread mounting over whether DAPL will force the final phase of pipeline construction in the upcoming days or week(s). If you have ever wanted to come in solidarity to Standing Rock, now is the time.

It is important to focus on the incredible solidarity and grassroots support that continues to grow in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and ALL new pipelines and oil and gas extraction. It is important because Energy Transfer Partners (DAPL), much like the white supremacist movement, has basically given a two-handed middle finger to the federal government. The Army Corps of Engineers, to its credit, has indicated that more input is needed. But all they can say is that if permits are violated legal action “may” be taken and fines “may” be assessed. Meanwhile, DAPL continues to stockpile drilling equipment in the virtual forts it has built on either side of the Missouri river. Work continues 7 days a week, 24 hours a day in order to get the pipeline in the ground and under the river before the ground freezes. Does the government really want to stop this illegal action or are they merely attempting to appease the masses with lies to the media? The feds (Army Corps of Engineers, etc) weakly asked DAPL to stop unpermitted work out of one side of their mouth, but also muttered that if DAPL does drill illegally the potential fine would be $15,000. A 3.2 billion dollar project doesn’t give a damn about paying $15k: it is simply another cost of doing business.

Meanwhile, over 500 water protectors have been arrested, beaten and jailed so far, often with false or trumped up charges for protecting a major source of drinking water and attempting to curtail a major exacerbating factor of climate change. That DAPL/Energy Transfer Partners might have to pay a pittance for this crime against the planet and humanity in this context is insane. The CEO of ETP, Kelcy Warren, will not be maced, gassed, shot at, strip searched and jailed by North Dakota law enforcement—though justice demands that ETP be held accountable for intensifying police repression. Will the military and militarized cops that have flooded this area, and doing nothing to prevent DAPL’s massive crimes, they continue to brutalize the citizenry that has been compelled to protect the public interest in place of the government and law enforcement. The water protectors at Standing Rock will not rely on the government and law enforcement to actually enforce the laws against DAPL—they have already learned that lesson many times over. Remember when DAPL illegally and immorally desecrated the Tribe’s sacred sites and burial area right after the Tribe disclosed the location of these areas to the federal government? Not only was there no penalty or consequence imposed upon them by the government, DAPL targeted those specific sites and forced a confrontation using attack dogs on nonviolent indigenous protectors. As DAPL continues to threaten the Missouri river and flagrantly ignores requests to deescalate by stopping construction, water protectors continue to build extremely strong necessity defenses against the trumped up charges being leveled against them by the State, which seems to serve only the corporate interest in greed and profits.

It is also critically important to emphasize the incredible organizing and activism that has continued despite extremely difficult conditions on the ground. Long after this campaign has ended, the skills, structures, organizational capacity and networks that have been created will endure and flourish. Each time we are forced to engage in resistance against the Black Snake in the future, more will join us. We will be stronger and more effective in our efforts ultimately to crush any and all efforts to extract insanely inefficient unconventional energy sources like tar sands and shale oil.

It also must be understood that government and DAPL infiltration, surveillance, and harassment continues to intensify. DAPL helicopters, drones, and surveillance planes buzz the camp day and night; bright lights flood the night horizon; and police continue to snatch protectors in non-arrest scenarios. The DAPL floodlights shine down from the north on the camp from up on a hill above making it feel even more like a war zone, in stark contrast to the peaceful, prayerful ceremony that continues unabated around the sacred fire. DAPL bosses have also resorted to inciting their own workers to unprecedented violence against unarmed nonviolent protectors. Several DAPL workers and security guards have brandished guns and aimed them at protectors, two indigenous women were hit by DAPL vehicles on Saturday alone. On Monday, DAPL workers had baseball bats, which they began to swing menacingly at Indigenous protectors engaged in prayer. It is sad to see workers being manipulated by the corporation. They turn their backs against their families, community, and even their own health and welfare to do the bidding of their corporate bosses.

Water protectors are tired and stressed out after months of intensive organizing. They have endured police brutality, especially at the hands of the Morton County Sheriff’s office, which continues to target Native American water protectors. An example of this overt racism occurred on Saturday’s protest when white allies surrounded Native American water protectors who were holding a prayer ceremony to act as a human shield against the police. Instead of dousing protectors in tear gas and OC spray (i.e., mace), or shooting them with less lethal bullets, the police stood down and the Native Americans were actually able to complete their ceremony without arrest or abuse. Today we watched police barricade a departing convoy of water protector vehicles that were complying with an order to disperse from the DAPL construction yard. 50 or more riot police (all white except one) walked the convoy of cars taking photos of the protectors and then selectively identified organizers, forced open vehicle doors, and dragged Native American protectors from the vehicles and roughly arrested them. During the action itself, one Native American man was tased, a female organizer was punched in the face by a cop, a protector’s car window was shot out by less lethal bullets, and peaceful protectors were terrorized by the mostly Bismarck cop presence. In contrast, this afternoon’s protest at the Army Corps office in Bismarck was peaceful and included a number of Native American veterans who called on the cops to remember their humanity. A flyer was made especially for Bismarck residents and law enforcement, in an attempt to ease hateful and sometimes violent reactions. One cop was seen with tears in their eyes behind their protective face shield. At the end of the protest, a number of Native water protectors went down the entire line of riot police and shook each of their hands. Perhaps, they hope, it will be harder to brutalize protectors in the future after looking into their eyes, finding their own humanity.

DAPL is spending 3.8 billion dollars in an attempt to complete construction of this pipeline. North Dakota has spent over 15 million dollars on “emergency” law enforcement and who knows how many millions and millions of dollars will be spent prosecuting water protectors for the many false arrests and trumped up charges levied against them by the State. This tactic has completely overloaded the limited capacity of the justice system in the state. Indeed, there is much more to say about the legal dimensions of this struggle. Unfortunately I am exhausted so that will have to come in my next update. More to come soon!

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