It seems like everyone’s going to Standing Rock. And I’m torn between trying to get there myself to directly protest construction of the 1,100-mile Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline (DAPL) and continuing to organize local support actions, which the “water protectors” among the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota and their allies are beseeching people to do. They say, "If you drink water and breathe air, this is your fight, too."
Many of the young people I met in 2014 who walked across the country as part of the Great March for Climate Action are already there and more are going. In New York City this week for a protest against the fracked gas Spectra AIM pipeline, I spent the night at a friend’s with Kelsey, who was leaving the next day on a Greyhound bus for Standing Rock – a more than 30-hour trip. I’ve been known to schlep my gear – tent, sleeping bag, blow-up pad, clothes, toiletries, books and my recording equipment – by bus and train to cover climate stories like Hurricane Katrina and mountaintop removal coal mining, but I couldn’t believe how much gear she was schlepping to enable her to camp out in the frigid Dakota nights.
My Catholic Worker friend Mark and his 20-something daughter are driving out this weekend to participate in an action there being organized by faith-based supporters. I was hoping to tag along, but the car is only a two-seater.
I’ve heard about other folks from Connecticut who might be heading out, and I’m going to check the ride board set up by Standing Rock supporters.
I organized a second local demo last week, this time at Wells Fargo bank, which has invested a scandalous $467 million in DAPL. We were at a busy downtown New Haven intersection, and passed out lots of flyers to mostly supportive people, then went in to read a letter to the bank manager. Unlike at TD Bank last month, where the bank manager freaked out and called the police, this manager welcomed us in and listened while I read the letter and then escorted us out after we marched around the office and chanted. The difference might have something to do with Wells Fargo’s reputation being in shreds from a different scandal, in which their employees were pressured to create two million fake accounts their customers didn’t want and then charging them fees to pad the bank’s bottom line. Now they’re playing nice.
The second action was smaller than the first, which came just a few days after private security guards hired by pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners attacked peaceful but militant protectors with dogs and mace. But right after our second action things got very hot at Standing Rock. On two different days in the past week, more than a hundred people were arrested, pepper sprayed, dragged out of prayer circles and some beaten (no dogs used, though, from what I’ve read). The escalation came as a result of a new camp established right on the pipeline route near the Missouri River. Opponents say the company is building every inch of the pipeline it can (right up to the river on both sides), while it awaits a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to lay the pipe under the river (which is Lake Oahe at that point, formed by a previous dam project).
Standing Rock tribal chairman Dave Archambault said on Democracy Now!, “The federal government, the United states, all we have to do is deny this easement, and this will all go away. Reroute this pipeline, and this will all go away. Save—protect our water, this will all go away. Deny the easement. President Obama needs to step up now, deny the easement. Hillary Clinton needs to make a firm statement about this and stop trying to ride the fence.”
Click here for the most moving description I’ve read of a visit to Standing Rock by an outside supporter.
And click here for a native perspective on why it’s important to not make this fight all about climate change – though it is about that, too.
The photo above is this year's jack-o-lantern.