A federal judge extended a temporary restraining order for another two weeks on “unlawful protest” against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a move that comes as activists say their peaceful actions are attracking broader support.
The US$3.8-million pipeline would cross four states, cutting through treaty-protected burial and ceremonial grounds and through major sources of water. Should the pipeline break, which activists say is a matter of when and not if due the company’s cost-cutting methods, it could destroy ecosystems and pollute the drinking water of all living by the Missouri River.
Thousands are camped out at the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp in the biggest Native American mobilizations in years, with 60 tribes represented and 87 tribes signing statements of solidarity. All seven bands of Lakota-Dakota-Nakota Nation have not been united in 140 years, according to Jon Eagle, Sr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Tara Houska, a lawyer and environmental activist chosen as Bernie Sanders’ Native American advisor, told teleSUR that the occupation—which began in April—has already been compared to the 1973 standoff against federal officials and agents at the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation. That action, led by the militant American Indian Movement, culminated in the arrest of Native American figure Leonard Peltier.
The current protest has already seen 29 arrested, including Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, and has mobilized armed patrols and federal resources following an emergency declaration and a state of emergency. Even the FBI has been sent to investigate “laser strikes” against a surveillance aircraft circling the camp.
“Why launch a federal investigation into a laser pointer instead of asking what right the U.S. government has to fly surveillance planes over sovereign nations in the first place?” said Houska in a statement released Tuesday.
She told teleSUR “ there is increased pressure and isolation being put on an already isolated place,” including armed guards that record the identities of people traveling through the checkpoint. Police blockades are forcing people an hour and a half away from their reservation to reroute “troublemakers.”
Both the restraining order and the state of emergency are based on allegations that protests are violent, but Houska notes that it’s protesters who have been peaceful in the face of armed police.
At the protests tribe members are sharing stories and traditional foods, women are leading water ceremonies and youth are participating in art workshops, she said.
“Most tribes are very familiar with extractive industries that are threatening or contaminating their land,” said Houska, who drove about 1,600 miles to answer an open call for help with resistance.
Both the ACLU of North Dakota and Bill McKibben of 350.org wrote in support of the protesters on Monday.
The ACLU reaffirmed that the state must ensure that “the rights of protesters are protected, not just the rights of corporations.”
McKibben argued that, “if former generations of the U.S. Army made it possible to grab land from Native people, then this largely civilian era of the Army Corps is making it easy to pollute and spoil what little we left them.”
Meanwhile, youth from the tribe are close to ending their march on Washington, D.C. against the pipeline, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a request for a moratorium on all pipeline construction by the U.S. and for urgent action by the U.N. human rights special rapporteurs.
The tribe also sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for approving construction without their consent and is waiting for a ruling Wednesday on an injunction to stop construction.
The two companies behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer and Sunoco Logistics, have been lobbying for more protection against the protesters and are, according to Little Sis, receiving US$3.75 billion and US$2.5 billion respectively from dozens of multinational banks.
Should the ruling not be in their favor, said Houska, protesters are already planning “very strong nonviolent direct action” for the sake of “clean drinking water and our children’s futures.”
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