Shit is going down and now is the time for the general public to apply meaningful pressure.
WHAT HAPPENED THESE LAST FEW DAYS
Sunday night (November 20), local law enforcement deliberately doused unarmed non-violent people with water cannons in 25F weather. That calm Minnesota accent we heard over the police loud speaker in September, assuring protesters they would not be hurt (despite the riot gear), is a thing of the past. He’s been replaced by law enforcement that openly point and laugh at people in prayer. Sunday night, in addition to the use of water in freezing temperatures, the state and county police shot non-violent protesters with plastic bullets, aiming for their heads and groins. They extensively tear-gassed a crowd on a bridge that was unable to flee, blocked in front by law enforcement, on the sides by the bridge edges, and behind by the crowd. Their behavior is increasingly reckless and even some in mainstream media have said it’s amazing they haven’t killed anyone.
There were hundreds of minor injuries associated with trampling, hypothermia, and blunt-force trauma. There were at least two major injuries. An elder suffered a heart attack, but was revived by CPR, and a 21-year-old white woman, Sophia Wilanksy, an activist ally from New York City, was hit by a concussion grenade that exploded on her arm while bringing water to people. She also suffered at least eight shots with plastic bullets. While Bismarck was only 43 miles, the tribal ambulance was forced to take a circuitous route, delaying medical care by hours. She has had one surgery so far and more are planned. She may lose her arm. Her father is an attorney. He gave a moving nine-minute interview Tuesday from a hospital.
He has also contacted the FBI and US Department of Justice (DOJ). Tuesday, for the first time, there were DOJ boots on the ground at Oceti Sakowin Camp investigating civil rights abuses by local law enforcement. That’s the power of a white injury and a white advocate— a topic for another blog post.
The water protectors (as they prefer to be called, highlighting their sovereign right to clean water) had blockaded the highway a month ago, but removed their blockade a day or two later after they were informed they would be liable for blocked emergency vehicles. Now, Morton County and the State of North Dakota have decided to re-build the roadblock with the same burned out vehicles, even though there is no longer pipeline construction near it. Sunday night’s conflict began when tribal members started to dismantle the roadblock, towing away one of the burned out vehicles (in the second video above).
Tuesday, local law enforcement began building an enormous concrete wall across the road, stretching hundreds of yards in each direction. It recalls the Berlin Wall, the West Bank Wall, or an international border with tight security.
Another element of this story has been the poor coverage by mainstream media. During the events of Sunday night, the only footage was via Facebook Live. With no boots on the ground, mainstream media, a day later, regurgitated statements from the Morton County Sheriffs: there was a riot, the protesters lit fires, we were using water to put out the fires. The videos from the night reveal these explanations to be absurd. Water cannons were clearly aimed to spray people. Fires are few in the video– mostly showing campfires with freezing people warming themselves. This poor coverage has arguably led to increased boldness by law enforcement, who seem increasingly willing to inflict injuries in the name of “control”.
INVESTORS PULLING OUT
All this comes at a time when oil production in the Bakken region is falling dramatically due to the collapse in world oil prices. By the end of the year, all Bakken production will fit comfortably inside existing pipelines, making the massive Dakota Access Pipeline unnecessary.
Combine this shaky economic basis with the injury of a white woman, involvement by the US DOJ, and the increasing militarization of the area by local law enforcement, and investors are nervous; some are pulling out.
WHAT WE CAN DO: LOBBYING
Now is the time for the public to apply meaningful pressure on these investors.
Here are the banks to protest against or to boycott. It’s quite a list. Among the largest banks familiar to Americans are:
As for making phone calls, those directly responsible for the police brutality are the Morton County Sheriff’s Department 701-667-3330 and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple 701-328-2200 (here is his own statement supporting the pipeline). You can also petition the US DOJ to investigate civil rights violations. A screenshot of the Morton County Sherriff Facebook page below includes their public explanation of Sophia Wilansky’s injuries and their phone number (bottom right of the picture).
THE ROLE OF THE WHITE HOUSE
As for the White House, President Obama and the federal government have a limited role in this pipeline. They cannot order it halted any more than they can order any business to close. They only have control over one permit only– to drill under the river, which requires passing through US Army Corp property. The US Army Corp originally granted this permit with little tribal consultation. Obama revoked the permit on September 9. Since then, the Army Corp has announced they are doing more extensive tribal consultation. A President Trump could grant this permit the day he takes office. So the Army Corp permit is not something to rely on. Instead, ask the Army Corp to require a Environmental Impact Statement, which a project of this size certainly warrants. This is essentially a giant permit process that takes months and requires extensive public comment. This process would be somewhat shielded from Trump, at least for a few months, and would give the tribe added legal leverage to file suit.
Bernie Sanders has suggested that Obama can declare the federal Army Corp lands where the pipeline is a national monument, thus blocking the pipeline. This may be possible (I’m not sure), but it would be a rather radical move and highly unlikely.
One more thing Obama can do is get DOJ to investigate civil rights abuses by the local law enforcement. Based on news today, thanks to the influence of Sophia Wilansky’s farther, this is finally happening. But this does nothing to stop the actual pipeline, other than make investors more nervous about the whole thing.
WHAT WE CAN DO: DONATIONS
As for donations, I was advised at a local teach-in that Oceti Sakowin Camp needs more winter gear– clothes, gloves, hats, boots, etc. To donate funds, they recommend using their PayPal account. A list of current supplies needed can be found here.
Here are some other of my posts, which focus more on economics, history, and current status of the conflict on the ground: