On Tuesday, two weeks after Trump ordered that the review of the Dakota Access Pipeline be expedited, the acting secretary of the Army (Robert Speer) told Congress that he was putting a stop to the environmental impact statement required by the Obama administration before construction could proceed. The Army was giving the pipeline’s owner, Energy Transfer Partners, an easement to move forward. The pipeline would transport half a million of fracked barrels a day and run under the Missouri River that supplies water to the tribe. An oil leak would be catastrophic.
The outcry on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, where members of over 300 tribes and thousands of other protesters gathered earlier this winter, has been immediate and intense. Tribal leaders vow “massive resistance.” And they will be far from alone. Back in December, several thousand American veterans joined the Water Protectors in North Dakota. There is a remarkable video on YouTube of Wesley Clark, Jr. asking forgiveness for the military’s past actions against the Sioux. A few days before the Army’s decision this week to let the pipeline go ahead, Anthony Diggs speaking for the group Veterans Stand said: “We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected. That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch.”
Three contingents of veterans are said to be already on their way back to the three main protest camps. Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the tribe, spoke about this in a live video posted to Facebook. Across the country, emergency rallies took place yesterday in at least 53 cities in 26 states, according to the #NoDAPL 2017 Action Hub.
At the same time, the Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to withdraw $3 billion from the Wells Fargo Bank, specifically citing the bank’s funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline as a major reason. Hundreds of demonstrators massing outside City Hall erupted in cheers. The City Council said it hoped they were sending a message to other locales. This is the first such action in the U.S., though in November the largest bank in Norway sold off all assets connected to the pipeline.
Like the Selma Civil Rights Marches in 1965, what’s happening at Standing Rock has become a challenge to the nation’s conscience. In Colorado, the company planning to build the Piñon Pipeline has announced its cancellation. President Obama, in his final weeks in office, protected 1.35 million acres of southern Utah that became the Bear Ears National Monument – bringing the indigenous people into future management decisions. Obama also created the almost 300,000 acre Gold Butte National Monument on sacred land in southern Utah.
And the fights have spread to other states – the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Texas, being confronted by native peoples from the Chumash, Borrado and Tongva; the Sabal and Pilgrim pipelines in Florida and New Jersey. These efforts, too, have been joined by outsiders. One Texas rancher hosts a protest camp on her property.
While Standing Rock tribal chairman Dave Archambault II admits they are “running out of options” on the legal front, confrontation with the authorities is increasingly likely. Earlier, Amnesty International dispatched a team to look into human rights abuses there and concluded that some protesters arrested were treated in cruel, inhuman and degrading ways in violation of international law. The United Nations has already sent experts to Standing Rock to investigate abuses by the company’s security henchmen.
A week ago, a raid by local police arrested 76 people at a new protest camp not affiliated with the tribe. Law enforcement has plans to deploy an “Avenger missile launcher system” supposedly for observational purposes, and recently Morton County released a video trying to explain why the police are wearing tactical gear.
And in the State Legislature of North Dakota, lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would protect drivers who “accidentally” hit and kill protesters!
On March 10, a Rise With Standing Rock Native Nations March is going to happen in Washington. It’s time for those of us who can to hit the streets!