#NoDAPL Water Protectors Need Your Help

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Photo by Jayel Draco

In the wake of the presidential election here in the U.S., almost all other news has been drowned out by the uproar of media and citizens as, once again, a leader is being put into office after losing the popular election. (The last count I saw before writing this said that Hillary Clinton was ahead by 1.7 million votes.) A leader who many are calling a fascist, who plans to put known racists and homophobes into leadership roles, and whose presumptive win has brought about an increase in hate crimes, neo-Nazi displays, and widespread protests.

So, yeah, that’s all big news.

But there’s been little, during all of this time, being covered about what’s happening in North Dakota at the #NoDAPL protest camps (I wrote about them after visiting). No news, in a case like this, can feel like good news–reports of unarmed activists being sprayed with water cannons in freezing weather, beaten, maced, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and arrested aren’t welcome to most people I know. But the quietness hasn’t been due to a lack of activity; as the U.S. has erupted into chaos, the water protectors at the camps along the Cannon Ball River have been settling in for the winter while watching in dismay as construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline draws closer with every passing day. A friend I met there on Halloween tells me that they can now see the construction vehicles from camp. And on November 20, police unleashed water cannons on protestors in sub-freezing temperatures, which has made recent news.

Many people think there’s not much they can do to help–North Dakota is so far away! But this isn’t just about North Dakota. It’s about indigenous people’s self-determination, and about the ability of us all to stand up to corporate interests and demand better options than fossil fuels, and to demand that our planet be treated with more respect. So, if you’re so inclined, here is a list of info that I’ve put together for those who haven’t heard much about #StandingRock in the recent weeks. I’m including lots of links that can help you get involved, and I’m dispelling a lot of rumors that have popped up in lieu of major media coverage. There are, I’m sure, lots of other resources and lots of other information I don’t have here, so feel free to use Google (or Ecosia, my  new favorite search engine, which plants trees with ad revenue!) to find out more.

1) The #NoDAPL movement has not won the battle.

There’s been a lot of talk about things changing; on November 15, there was a day of action on which groups protested and rallied outside of Army Corps of Engineers offices around the country, delivering letters expressing whole communities’ disapproval that the Corps is allowing police brutality and the defiling of Native sovereignty to happen on their land. The day before this happened, the Army Corps made a public statement indicating that the oil pipeline could not continue without further consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux. And there have been headlines saying that various Federal agencies have “stopped” the pipeline, referring to the Obama administration’s request (back in September, after water protectors were attacked by dogs that private security brought to the front lines) that the oil pipeline company halt construction. But the company has not halted construction. The construction has continued, at an accelerated pace, as Energy Transfer Partners tries desperately to meets its end-of-year contracted deadline for multiple investors, including most of the world’s major banks. They have no intention of stopping, and their progress is being defended by armed private security and militarized police (and occasionally, National Guard).

And meanwhile, the thousands of people living at the camps just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (on land that by all legal rights should still be their land, by the way) are standing in the way of brutal violence. Their camp is under 24/7 surveillance from snipers, helicopters, and propeller planes. The planes circle low overhead at all hours of the day, denying the water protectors sleep, along with floodlights that are sometimes shined directly into the camp from nearby hilltops. Many water protectors have said that believe the planes, which are built to be crop-dusters, fly without lights on and may be spraying or dumping something on the camp. No one can be sure because they can’t see well enough to know. Water protectors have marched to Bismarck, North Dakota’s state capital, to protest the way they’re being treated by law enforcement. They’ve staged direct actions and prayer circles (one of which involved 500 clergypeople from multiple faiths at the front lines; it’s interesting to note that law enforcement did not see fit to break this one up or arrest anybody, but that when Native people lead traditional sacred ceremonies at the front lines they are frequently arrested).

2) The water protectors are NOT getting violent.

Misinformation has been spread about the water protectors, much of which keeps some of the more hesitant among us from getting involved. As far as I am aware (and as far as everyone I know at the camp is aware, as well), there has been NO documented incident of violence on the part of the water protectors, aside from rocks being occasionally thrown. Given that the people throwing these rocks are always unarmed and given that they are throwing them at heavily armed police in full riot gear, I have a hard time believing that this warrants any kind of violent reaction, but that’s just my opinion. There have been reports in the media of water protectors brandishing guns, setting fires, and so on, but every single person I’ve spoken to–and every video I’ve seen of these altercations–has made it clear that violence is almost entirely the purview of the law enforcement and security forces on the scene.

3) The water protectors need assistance.

Misinformation has also been spread about the state of the camp as it looks ahead to winter. I’ve seen headlines reporting that donations of “millions” of dollars are pouring into the camp. That the water protectors have everything they need and so we shouldn’t waste our money. And while it’s true that donations are helping the camp prepare for the brutal North Dakota winter, there are no “millions” being poured in. There are small bits here and there. Blankets, coats, materials for shelter, food, water. But there are thousands of people at that camp that need to be fed and sheltered. North Dakota sees subzero temperatures regularly throughout the winter. Most of the water protectors are living in tents and teepees and will need as much help as they can get to weather the winter.

The camps are still in need of assistance. Here are lots of ways you can help:

4) They especially need your help now.

And then, last weekend, there came reports of police using water cannons on water protectors in freezing weather, along with their usual litany of rubber bullets, concussion and stinger grenades, mace, pepper spray, sound cannons, and police baton beatings. The water protectors were reportedly attempting to dislodge a barricade across Highway 1806 that blocked the camp from access to emergency vehicles (and other traffic) from Bismarck, and also from the pipeline construction itself. Videos show the water protectors singing, praying, and holding their hands up in peace signs as police unleashed wave after wave of violence–especially targeting medics who were trying to get the injured to safety. Reports coming out the camp say that over three hundred were injured–many of these people suffered hypothermia in the 26-degree night.

The medical facilities at the camp was inundated, and supplies are now running low. The medics are in dire need of supplies, which they can buy with help from the concerned public.

One water protector, Sophia Willanksy, was delivering bottles of water to those on the front lines on Sunday night when she was hit directly with a concussion grenade. She is currently in a hospital in Minneapolis after having undergone extensive surgery to try and repair her arm. I’ve heard a lot of talk of amputation. There is a GoFundMe raising money for her medical bills.

5) There are lots of actions you can take to show solidarity.

In response to this latest outrage, the water protectors in North Dakota are calling for a week of direct actions from 11/24 to 12/1 worldwide, raising awareness and demanding that a stop be put to this brutality, mostly by way of defunding the banks that are backing the pipeline. You can get involved in a number of ways, most of which are outlined on the websites I’m linking to–including this one that is devoted entirely to ways that you can support the water protectors from afar–but I’ll give you some ideas here, too:

  • If you use a major bank that’s helping to fund the pipeline (hint: most of them are), divest your money. Explain to the teller why you’re doing it (and joining a responsible, community-oriented credit union instead!), and make a video or take a picture of yourself doing it. Post that shit.
  • Make phone calls: inundate the offices of law enforcement involved with these travesties, demand that the Army Corps of Engineers put a stop to the pipeline, call the White House, call your local law enforcement to request that no troops from your area be sent to Standing Rock. Get creative!
  • GET LOUD. Join in any local protests or rallies against the pipeline. Take photos of yourself with #NoDAPL signs and share the hell out of them on social media. Reblog and share anyone that’s raising money or awareness about what’s happening out there. Talk to your friends and family. Be obnoxious. It’s okay.
  • There is an international Day of Prayer being scheduled for December 4. No matter what your faith or your material investment in this fight, you can take part in this.
  • There are a TON of petitions going around asking different political entities to intervene. I don’t know how effective any of these might be, but as far as I’m aware, signing any of them can’t hurt. It’s a show of solidarity, if nothing else.

6) Basically, this fight is not over. And it’s only one of many going on around the world. The people of the world are starting to stand up and refuse to lie down and take more fossil fuel infrastructure and environmental degradation. No matter what happens at Standing Rock, this war is going to continue. So my advice is to dig in. Pay attention. And be ready for more.

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