October 31, 2016 Al Gore / EcoWatch & Mark Trahant / YES Magazine & Dan Zukowski / EcoWatch
Commentary: "I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. We have witnessed inspiring and brave acts by Native Americans and their allies who are defending and trying to protect their sacred sites and the safety of their sole source of water."
First Amendment Rights Must Be Protected for
Those Peacefully Opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline Al Gore / EcoWatch
(October 26, 2016) -- I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. We have witnessed inspiring and brave acts by Native Americans and their allies who are defending and trying to protect their sacred sites and the safety of their sole source of water.
The fossil fuel industry -- and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline in particular -- have been proceeding with what appears to be a dangerous project in blatant disregard of obvious risks to the Missouri River and with disrespect to the Standing Rock Sioux.
In the process, those trying to force completion of this pipeline have -- according to independent news reports -- been using oppressive practices against this community. In response, Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault has requested that the Justice Department deploy observers to ensure that the First Amendment rights of those peacefully opposing this pipeline are protected. I hope his request is honored.
The non-violent resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline is also one of the frontline struggles that collectively mark a turning point in the decision by humanity to turn away from the destructive path we have been following and aim instead toward a clean energy future for all.
The courage and eloquence of the Standing Rock Sioux in calling all of us to recognize that in their words, "Water is Life," should be applauded, not silenced by those who are driven by their business model to continue spewing harmful global warming pollution into our Earth's atmosphere.
This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and learn from the traditional values being expressed by the Standing Rock Sioux to protect life on Earth.
The effort to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are respected are not only issues of civil rights and religious freedom, but reflect the choice we must make to ensure a sustainable, just, fair and healthy future for all generations to come.
Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis.
"I'm angry. White people in Oregon are acquitted while Native people in North Dakota are attacked by riot police from five states. And our politicians are preoccupied."
(October 28, 2016) -- This morning, politics is crowded out by injustice.
Every preposterous and painful image from North Dakota is another reminder of injustice: The massive military-style police occupation of Standing Rock treaty lands, the rush to protect the frantic construction schedule for the Dakota Access pipeline, and the brutal law enforcement march against people who are fighting for the simple idea that water is life.
I'm angry. How shall I say this without ranting? Tell stories.
Last January, when a gang of gun-toting, Constitution mis-quoting, anti-government militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon the reaction from federal law enforcement was patience. Days went by. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (sounding very North Dakota-like) urged the federal government to crack down on "the radicals" before more arrived.
The lands involved were Paiute lands. Months ago, Jarvis Kennedy, a Burns Paiute Tribal Council member, asked: "What if it was a bunch of Natives who went in there and took it?"
We now know. And back in Oregon a few days ago, a jury found the Bundy gang not guilty.
Stories to tell. Injustice.
Since the beginning of the Standing Rock crisis there has been a call for President Obama to get involved. After all, there is a clear federal issue: The Oceti Sakowin Camp is on treaty land now claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
And President Obama has a direct emotional connection with this tribe and this place: "I know that throughout history, the United States often didn't give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved. So I promised when I ran to be a president who'd change that, a president who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve."
How could he have done that? Mutual respect could have, should have, started with a federal presence that made talking more important than acting. The action at Standing Rock is not over. But the federal government's absence is not productive.
Indeed, if you listen to any politician, Democrat or Republican, you'll hear them talk about respect for the treaties. Of course. The Constitution says treaties "shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."
The word "shall" is like a commandment. But if that's true, then how does any treaty tribe have less land than what's in the document? Legally, morally, a treaty trumps a congressional act or an executive order. A treaty claim to the land is not preposterous.
If the United States lived up to its own ideals, there would be no stolen water, land, and dams on the Missouri River, and the Army Corps of Engineers would have a long history of real negotiation with the tribes instead of a pretend consultation.
Then every tribe in the country has its own Standing Rock story.
Often several stories. Vacant lumber mills that promised jobs but left behind toxic debris. Phosphate clean-up plans that were too expensive, so the waste is buried instead. Or 3 million gallons of heavy metal sludge released by the government into the Animas River where water flowed into Navajo farms and communities.
Stories to tell. Injustice.
There have been calls to get the presidential candidates involved. To visit. To see for themselves the love of the land, the water, and how this moment has brought Indian Country together.
Donald Trump wouldn't be much help. He's in the same boat as most of the politicians in North Dakota. They hope to profit from this pipeline project and a future where oil remains more important than water. "Trump's financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1 million holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed, The Guardian reported.
And Hillary Clinton? We know from the WikiLeaks that she was inclined to approve Keystone XL pipeline but then flipped because there was so much attention on her email server. It was a way to change the story. Or so the campaign hoped.
Then election season is a terrible time to actually engage in public policy. Campaigns should be talking about issues and what they might do. But not when that decision is influenced by money, large voting blocs, and an intense election schedule. Eleven days out, a campaign is more worried about winning the election than anything else. Period.
I'll be polite: The statement by Hillary Clinton on Standing Rock was awful.
The second I read it my heart dropped. I can see this being crafted at a table where folks weighed in from a variety of constituent groups and the writing was designed to not offend. "Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects.
Now, all of the parties involved -- including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes -- need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it's important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators' rights to protest peacefully, and workers' rights to do their jobs safely."
So in the spirit of reconciliation, Energy Transfer Partners put out its own statement: "All trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land."
There is a schedule to keep. Investors have been promised the pipeline will flow with oil soon. No matter what. Another story to tell. Injustice.
This article was originally published at Trahant Reports. It has been edited for YES! Magazine. Governor Uses Emergency Order to Bring
Out-of-State Police to Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Dan Zukowski / EcoWatch
(October 25, 2016) -- Dozens of additional law enforcement officers from six states are headed to North Dakota under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a program designed to facilitate state-to-state disaster relief assistance. While this compact has been used in times of riot, its use in peaceful protests or non-violent direct actions seems unprecedented.
On Aug. 19, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a state of emergency, which is a prerequisite to requesting help under EMAC.
"This emergency declaration simply allows us to bring greater resources to bear if needed to help local officials address any further public safety concerns," Gov. Dalrymple said.
But, according to Jennifer Cook, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota: The origins of the state's overreaction can be traced to a lawsuit filed by the oil pipeline company -- Dakota Access -- against protesters in federal court to stop demonstrations near its construction sites.
"To sway the court's decision and likely public opinion, too, the pipeline company claimed it feared violence from protesters was imminent because of a few vague threats posted on social media and an anonymous email.
"Protesters have been arrested for pushing through police lines to stop construction equipment, but incidents like these in no way support declaring a state of emergency and militarizing the state's response."
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others who have been trying to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline have faced numerous police actions:
1. Attack dogs and mace: On Sept. 4, Morton County Sheriff's officers arrested 21 protestors as private security forces hired by Dakota Access LLC used mace and unleashed dogs. An estimated 30 people suffered temporary blindness, while several were attacked and bitten by the dogs.
2. Armored vehicles: On Sept. 29, during a peaceful prayer ceremony at Standing Rock, Morton County police moved in with armored vehicles and riot gear, arresting 21.
3. 126 Arrested: On Oct. 22, 126 people were arrested and charged with rioting and other offenses. Witnesses saw officers pepper-spraying people.
4. Journalists arrested: Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman was charged with rioting after her video report of the Sept. 4 incident went viral. The charge was thrown out in court. On Oct. 11, filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was jailed and charged with three felonies. She faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
"Prosecuting filmmakers for covering protests sends a chilling message," stated Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He urged prosecutors to drop all charges.
Justifying the weekend's arrests, an Oct. 23 press release from the Morton County Sheriff's office stated that "this escalated criminal behavior by protesters" calls for additional manpower. Now, increasingly militarized police will be joined by additional forces from Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Indiana and Nebraska.
However, tribal leaders maintain that their protests are non-violent and peaceful. In an email to EcoWatch, tribal historian LaDonna Allard wrote, "We don't allow weapons of any kind at the camps."
Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, issued a statement that said: "The Tribe also supports the right of our citizens and supporters of the Tribe to engage in peaceful, non-violent expressions of their opposition to the pipeline. The Tribe believes that non-violence must be the guiding principle of citizen activism at all times."
But the more than 2,000 Native Americans and non-Natives, many of whom have come from across the US to stand up for the Sioux, are increasingly fearful of police force. Mark Trahant, an independent journalist and a faculty member at the University of North Dakota, asked, " How far will North Dakota go?" He stated:
"They've already tried intimidation, humiliation and the number of arrests are increasing. Pick on protectors, elders, journalists, famous people, anyone who could make the state appear potent. The latest tactic is to toss around the word 'riot' as if saying it often enough will change its definition."
Archambault called on the US Department of Justice to step in. In a letter Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, he wrote:
"To many people, the military tactics being used in North Dakota are reminiscent of the tactics used against protesters during the civil rights movement some 50 years ago. And I believe that there are similarities there.
But to us, there is an additional collective memory that comes to mind. This country has a long and sad history of using military force against indigenous people -- including the Sioux Nation."
Organizers Kandi Mossett, Tara Houska and Dallas Goldtooth provided an update and call to action on the situation at Standing Rock at the Bioneers 2016 Conference Sunday. Watch here:
Actor Mark Ruffalo is visiting North Dakota today and Wednesday. He will participate in a press conference and deliver solar trailers to Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders to provide power at the camp. Leonardo DiCaprio also has plans to visit North Dakota in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Meanwhile, a rally was held in Minneapolis on Tuesday to protest the participation of deputies from Hennepin County.
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