Boulders Still on the Road Forward for Standing Rock

New Orleans    The headlines on the progressive websites have been big and bold and heralded that “Resistance Works” in the wake of the delay won this week in construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Oahe Reservoir, the subject of massive protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of supporters. The websites are right – protests did work.

But, it was more than simple protests. What worked was a massive and entrenched show of force in the face of a confrontation that clearly no one on either side really wanted, no matter how much some of the fire breathers from the sheriff’s office and elsewhere might have wanted to provoke conflict and violence. The prospect of violence was likely a bigger threat than any slogans on protest signs.

The scale shifted decidedly in favor of the protestors when groups mobilizing veterans to support the Standing Rock Sioux announced that they would arrive coinciding with the state’s attempt to close the park where much of the encampment was located. The million dollars raised by the veterans on GoFundMe’s website was a serious statement. They claimed that 2000 veterans had signed up, and they were disciplined and talking tough. News accounts indicated that certainly 250 actually did come for sure and likely more where there, but by that time the Army Corp of Engineers had finally blinked, likely with a huge shove from the White House and denied the permit at least for now.

The pictures of the protests and reports from the field were heroic. This all looks like a modern day Valley Forge with protestors hunkered down and flag waving the snow. The mounted horsemen are dramatic. The symbols are stark. The Indians are resolute. And, truth to tell, they all look freezing cold and miserable! Winter in North Dakota is no one’s idea of a vacation spot in December. This is serious business.

Equally sobering is the flimsy feeling of the victory, since temporary is stamped all over it. The North Dakota congressman says build, baby, build. President-elect Trump has said he’s for finishing the job. He’s even interviewing oil company executives these days for jobs like Secretary of State for goodness sakes. Environmental lawyers said they would sue over any re-issuance of the permit, and the demands for a complete environmental study looking at alternatives is still reasonable and right. The head of the tribe played the situation perfectly by saying he looked forward to having an opportunity to make the case for rerouting the pipeline to Trump when possible.

A standing party will likely maintain the encampment through the winter until spring. Better weather will offer the opportunity to revive the support, because this fight could become iconic as the delays stretch from months into potential years. Even the pipeline builders with enough time may want to reroute just to be done with the job so that they can see the oil coursing through the pipes and collect their final paychecks.

A battle may have been won, but not the war. There’s a whole lot more fighting that will have to be done before all of us can count coup on another pipeline project.

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Time to Stand with Standing Rock

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Oklahoma National Guard soldier Chris Turley is walking through Kansas to draw attention to the Dakota Access pipeline protest and veterans’ concerns after they come back from war. GoFundMe.com graphic.

New Orleans There’s no question that among the most serious struggles in the country today is the one being waged by the Standing Rock Sioux and countless others over the Dakota Access Pipeline and the threat it poses to water, land, and sacred sites. There’s also no question that as winter is coming everyone, particularly in the North Dakota state government and the county sheriff’s office, is trying to muscle up on the protestors. It is crystal clear that the authorities are looking for a fight.

Some reports indicated that as many as 20,000 people spent some part of Thanksgiving in camp with the protestors. Though thinly reported by the mainstream media, real social media sources also gave indications of protests during the week of all kinds of shapes and sizes around the country in support of the pipeline protestors.

The governor of North Dakota seems to be trying to cut the supply line of food and material to the camp, claiming that a six-inch snowfall put the camp in danger. In North Dakota six inches of snow is so little that it is hardly noticed by the locals, so his announcement must have been intended to startle some folks in the South or something.

Meanwhile I happened to catch a live radio report from the camp indicating that their supply lines were still robust. The speaker mentioned having made a stop to pick up an arctic tent earlier in the day and others that were being donated by individuals that were coming in regularly, along with other supplies.

He and the interviewers were discussing in a calm and tentative fashion their belief that communications are being blocked around the camp for cell and internet service. One example from Thanksgiving week occurred when a woman tried to broadcast on Facebook Live from the camp and was shut off as soon as she typed in her location as Standing Rock, but when she went to up under a Happy Thanksgiving tag, Facebook Live streamed right through. They noted that a Cessna that had been flying continually over the camp was not in the air during the snowstorm, and the fact that without the plane, cell and internet improved remarkably. This line of discussion centered on why there was not more coverage of the Standing Rock protests. They were careful to say they had no hard evidence, but the coincidences were remarkable.

One thing that is getting coverage is the fact that 2000 veterans, part of Veterans Standing with Standing Rock are planning to come into camp over the next week and act as “human shields” for the protestors or “water protectors,” as one woman vet described them. Listening to one of their spokespeople, they seemed to be all brass and no bluff. In fact they have raised close to a half-million dollars on GoFundMe to support veterans standing with Standing Rock. Although the campground is scheduled to be closed as part of the state government’s get tough talk, one of the vet leaders was quoted as saying he would love to see some county cop try to arrest any of the veterans for trespass. This was a guy who understands that 2000 veterans are an 800-pound gorilla that is not to be messed with. The local authorities were quoted as saying that as long as people were peaceful, there would be no problems. The tribe said they were committed to peace.

Talk is good but as the water protectors and the veterans are proving once again, action speaks louder. This is all serious stuff now, as it has been throughout. We all need to be prepared to stand with Standing Rock now. This is when we are needed.

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