Standing Rock Camps Shut Down, But the Fight Against DAPL Isn’t Over

This past Wednesday and Thursday, the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps were cleared by more than 200 police officers in riot gear as part of an emergency evacuation order signed by North Dakota governor Doug Burgum. Many of the water protectors cleared out peacefully, and some set fire to their camps as a ceremonial act of defiance to destroy it themselves before law enforcement could.

Over the those two days, 46 water protectors who refused to comply with the evacuation were arrested, including a group of military veterans, reporting journalists, and even an Oglala grandmother named Regina Brave. Present at the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, Brave was also a vocal opponent to the Keystone XL pipeline in recent years.

Even when water protectors are leaving peacefully to move on to larger movements, North Dakota law enforcement proved once again that they cannot do their jobs without abusing their power. Arriving with armored vehicles, snipers and AR-15s is beyond extreme, especially against those whose only “crime” is just refusing to move or live streaming the eviction to Facebook, the latter being the case for Eric Poemz as he was chased by police in his live stream and can be heard saying his hip may have broken as he was forced to the ground.

This amount of law enforcement is unnecessary, especially when they go so far as to violate First Amendment rights and try to silence anyone who tries to publicize the truth.

After the camps were cleared, Energy Transfer Partners announced that they finished drilling under Lake Oahe and will begin laying down pipe. According to their attorney, William Shcerman, DAPL’s construction could be finished and begin flowing oil in less than two weeks.

Things are not getting any better at the White House as they try to pass off their blatant lies — or what they call alternative facts — as truth. White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, Sean Spicer, claimed in a recent press briefing that President Donald Trump “has been in contact with all parties involved” with DAPL. Shortly afterwards, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault II, posted a response on Facebook that that was ‘absolutely false.” The tribe only finally received a meeting the day after the easement to drill under Lake Oahe was issued, to which Archambault cancelled it and filed a lawsuit for the illegal expediting and suspending of the environmental impact study.

Spicer’s briefing also contradicts Trump’s claims almost two weeks ago that he didn’t find DAPL controversial and hasn’t received a single phone call. Of course, he hasn’t been taking any phone calls given that the comments line is down with only an automated message with instructions to submit your comment on the White House’s website.

At this point, does the Trump administration think they’re that clever to make anyone believe anything they say?

To top all of this off, ABC News revealed that two days before Trump approved of the easement, the US Department of Interior withdrew a 35-page legal analysis — written by the department’s top lawyer Hilary Tompkins — of the environmental risks and treaty rights violations of DAPL with more than enough justification to deny further construction.

Tompkins wrote that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s “core identity and livelihood depend upon their relationship to the land and environment unlike a resident of Bismarck, who could simply relocate if the pipeline fouled the municipal water supply, Tribal members do not have the luxury of moving away from an environmental disaster without also leaving their ancestral territory.”

So not only is the Trump administration lying through their teeth about their involvement and active listening in this controversy, but they are also willing to throw away anything criticizing their biased personal interests as an attempt to avoid accountability, no matter how irrefutable it is.

The camps may be shut down, but the fight against DAPL is far from over. Protests continue nationwide urging major banks to divest from DAPL, and a Native Nations March is planned for March 10th in Washington DC and nationwide. Chase Iron Eyes with LPLP plans to rally support for the new lawsuits filed by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes.

Contact your representatives to support the fight against the Black Snake. Donate as the water protectors fight moves to D.C.

Courts Stand With Oil, Resistance Remains as Evacuation Deadline Looms

In response to the President’s executive order green-lighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, activists and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have pursued legal action in the courts on Monday in Washington D.C.

Unfortunately, Judge Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled against the tribe and in favor of the companies constructing the pipeline. According to AP,  Judge Boasberg  stated that “as long as oil isn’t flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes,”

This argument, however, seems irrational given that once the pipeline is built, oil will flow through it:oil that will leak into the ground, oil that will poison the groundwater, Lake Oahe, and the surrounding rivers.

If and when this happens, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is left without a backup solution for clean drinking water.

In court, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their legal team made the argument that the pipeline would endanger their  water supply and sacred cultural sites. They added a religious freedom component to their case last week, arguing that clean water is essential to practice the Sioux religion.

According to Reuters, Chase Iron Eyes, LPLP attorney and an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, responded to the ruling, saying:”We’re disappointed with today’s ruling denying a temporary restraining order against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but we are not surprised.”

It seems as though the practices of the tribe’s culture and religion are inconsequential to the judge presiding over the case. It is also worth noting that Judge Boasberg has ruled on a matter concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline in September of last year,  ruling in favor of the companies citing the tribe’s efforts and relationship to the government as “contentious and tragic”. The Obama administration blocked that ruling with the executive order to conduct the prolonged environmental study.

In other recent news, veterans groups, such as Veterans Respond and Veterans Stand continue to travel to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with water protectors on the ground there, notably in Sacred Stone camp at the invitation of landowner LaDonna Brave Bull Allard.

Local law enforcement has made it difficult for these veteran groups to join Standing Rock in their struggle by pulling over members of the group and searching their vehicles.

The executive director of Veterans Respond, Mark Sanderson, told the Guardian I’m honestly disgusted. It makes no sense to us. Why are you trying to attack a group of veterans doing nothing more than a humanitarian aid mission in North Dakota?”

Outside of Standing Rock, efforts around pressuring different bodies to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline continue around the country.

The city council of Davis, CA moved to divest from the Wells Fargo, which is a main financier of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The entire portfolio included a grand sum of $30 million. This move has been part of a movement across the country in an effort to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock by divesting from institutions that are invested in the construction of the pipeline. Mayor Davis released this statement to the press: “Our decision to divest is based both on Wells Fargo’s decision to invest in the DAPL, but also because they have engaged in business practices that we find are inconsistent with our City’s values,”

In Seattle, WA activists have pressured the city council to divest from Wells Fargo in response to the bank’s funding of the pipeline. The city, with a unanimous vote from the city council, decided to divest the entirety of their annual $3 billion business from Wells Fargo. Activists are now moving on to pressuring the city to divest city employee’s pension funds from fossil fuels.

City Councilmember Kshama Sawant had this to say about the issue to her constituents,“The city pension fund has $2.5 billion in fossil fuels (investments) and we are demanding that we divest from that. This is the next step. We have to strike while the iron is hot!”

In Minneapolis, organizers from the local chapter of climate activist group 350.org marched to persuade U.S. Bank CEO, Richard Davis, to assist in pressuring U.S. Bank to divest the $275 million in credit that was given to companies constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The fight to protect water goes on in the hearts of water protectors across the country, and as the 2 p.m. on Wednesday deadline looms for evacuation the situation becomes more dire. The Army Corps, the National Parks Service,  officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Federal Police have staged roadblocks restricting access into the main camp, Oceti Sakowin. It is especially worth noting that officials are restricting access to the camp even to the press.

The fight for water rights and human rights is far from over. Divestment movements and other forms of resistance continue. We stand adamant and ready for what is to come.

Stay tuned on our Facebook page and our Twitter for updates on #NoDAPL’s last stand. You can contact your representatives and tell them to stand against DAPL at lakotalaw.org.dapl-action. You can also donate to our legal defense fund to help build the case for water protectors facing felony charges at lakotalaw.org/legalfund.

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Judge ruled against the tribe saying there was no damage yet, “exceedingly tardy”, will file for appeals court.

Final Easement Approved for DAPL to Finish Construction

Little more than a week after President Donald Trump’s memorandums to push through two hotly contested oil pipelines, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) approved the final easement to finish Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on Feb. 7.

Despite that the ACOE Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is still open to public opinion and is a process that usually takes years to finish, acting Secretary of the Army, Robert Speer — who directed ACOE to make the final approval — claimed that it was unnecessary. Speer’s decision is rooted in the belief that there is enough information on the pipeline’s impact to allow the permit to cross Lake Oahe.

At this rate, it is estimated that the pipeline will be operation by the late second quarter of the year.

With these new developments, ACOE broke their promise to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to review their misjudgments to allow construction to get this far. Now, the Corps are being pressured to follow a legally-dubious order based on Trump’s biased interests in the oil industry. Standing Rock has stated that they are committed to taking legal action for a fair review of DAPL and remained determined to stop this pipeline from contaminating their water source.

“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the EIS and issue the easement,” the Standing Rock Sioux said in a statement. “The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments.”

Not only does expediting environmental reviews pose a threat to drinking water, but it also ignores the treaties meant to keep such infrastructure projects from being illegally built on Native lands. Any trust left in the American government will be lost if their concerns are not taken into consideration.

The government’s carelessness and the continuing mistreatment against the water protectors is a reminder that the fight against DAPL is far from over. Construction cannot be allowed to continue, especially if the vital analyses are bypassed in favor of Trump’s personal interests.

You can take action now. Contact your representatives to stop the illegal expediting of DAPL, and urge Trump to listen to reason via our website lakotalaw.org. Donate here for the water protectors’ legal fund and to fund our defense of our lead attorney Chase Iron Eyes.

Conflicts of Interest in Trump’s Executive Action for Oil Pipelines

Only days after his inauguration, President Donald Trump signed executive actions to urge approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. While it is not set in stone as an order without Congressional cooperation, this sparked a new wave of protests from indigenous and environmental groups nationwide to speak against the pipelines, especially DAPL, before any hasty approval. Trump’s misguided actions are setting up for disaster to all.

As part of Trump’s memorandum, Section 3 calls for “expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals” for “high priority” infrastructure projects. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) already began their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Jan. 18 and have until Feb. 20 to hear public comments about concerns with DAPL. If the order becomes definite, then ACOE loses a chance to hear from the American people about the impact DAPL will have on the Standing Rock Sioux and the environment.

President Trump’s urgency to expedite an environmental report is very telling of his lack of concern for the 18 million people down the Missouri River this pipeline could poison if completed, as pipelines throughout the country have the worst history of quality reassurance– speeding up the necessary processes to protect citizens nearby pipelines is just another way to cut corners, posing more danger to the American people.

It also does not help that among Trump actions in the past week, he also placed a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from speaking to the public about environmental facts, even banning staffers from making social media posts, and removed climate change links from the White House’s website. Grants and contracts for programs like monitoring clean air and water were also frozen up until today after concerns of halting vital environmental projects to improve public health.

Trump claims that such infrastructure projects will bring jobs back to America and lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but the reality is that DAPL will only create 15 jobs to actually manage the pipeline upon completion. It is just an excuse to ignore the violation of  multiple environmental and tribal laws and disregarding the thousands of gallons spilled by the corrupt oil industry. With his obsession for “Buy American and Hire American,” he also signed directives which would require American-made steel for pipelines which, if put in place, would likely further delay the projects.

The amount of conflicts of interest Trump has in supporting DAPL should be criminal. Not only did he recently own up to $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), but  DAPL’s parent company’s CEO Kelcy Warren donated $3,000 to Trump’s  campaign and another $100,000 to a committee supporting Trump. Among the many problematic choices for this administration, they include Rick Perry—former Texas governor who is on ETP’s board of directors—for Secretary of Energy, Rex Tillerson—former ExxonMobil CEO who doesn’t have political experience and refused to answer how much his company knew about climate change—for Secretary of State, and Scott Pruitt—attorney general of Oklahoma who shut down the state’s environmental unit—for the EPA administrator.

It is very obvious from Trump’s multiple connections to the oil industry that it is less a matter of bringing back jobs to America as it is about looking after his own investments.

Not only have the environmental threats gone over his head, but Native American lives and civil rights also remain neglected. Construction teams illegally dug up sacred grounds and burial sites rightfully belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux, and more than 600 people have been arrested since August.  Water protectors are still suffering excessively brutal law enforcement with tear gas, rubber bullets and cruel detainment conditions. Even North Dakota lawmakers created bills which would outlaw road protests and face masks, and not hold drivers accountable if they injured or killed protesters.

It is absolutely disgraceful to boast about “making America great again” while violating First Amendment Rights like a dystopian novel and ignore those in most need of help. Just Trump’s first week in office is proof to how little he cares about public safety and basic human rights, and it cannot be ignored for one second.

Submit your comment through Lakota People’s Law Project to ACOE to voice your concerns about DAPL. Donate to our team to help support the ongoing resistance against the Black Snake.

New Wave of Protests after Trump Signs Executive Action for DAPL Completion

President Donald Trump has given the green light to streamline construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. His decision is not surprising given that his cabinet picks are full of pro-oil candidates like Exxon Mobil executive Rex Tillerson and former Texas Governor Rick Perry.  

The pipeline construction in its current proposition has been found to understate the risks posed by landslides and amount of safety construction to contain spills. Such spills are most likely going to poison groundwater that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe needs to sustain itself. If the pipeline construction is complete, Standing Rock could be the next Flint, where residents have to use bottled water for daily use.

This executive action overturns all the work water protectors have made recently under the Obama administration, and which is unfortunate because the Standing Rock Sioux tribe formally asked the encampments to disperse on Friday, January 20th according to Reuters. While Archambault stated that the fight is now in the courts, the tribe needs support and solidarity now more than ever.

This unfortunate turn of events overshadows the recent victory of the water protectors in the North Dakota Supreme Court, which allowed for out-of-state lawyers to represent the over 600 protesters that have been arrested so far . With arrests still ongoing, this number is likely to rise.

President Trump’s actions have not fallen on deaf ears, however. Various representatives of environmental groups and civil rights groups, including the ACLU and the Sierra Club, have all voiced their opposition to this revival of pipeline construction.

Activists like Chase Iron Eyes, Lead Attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project, have been especially active in standing against these actions. On Facebook posted:

Fighters, brothers and sisters. Come. Heed the call to defend this country against all enemies, foreign & domestic. We shall find out who loves this land, who is loyal to the water and who is a traitor to this land, to our water.”

Protests have also occurred in New York outside of Trump Tower and Trump International Hotel—attendance numbering in the hundreds—to show the President that these actions will not go on without consequence.

As the situation intensifies, people are again diverting their attention to the confrontation in Standing Rock. Chairman of the United Nations (UN) Working Group on the issue of Human Rights, Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, Pavel Sulyandziga, and Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, have both arrived in North Dakota. These two gentlemen will be joined by representatives of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) as well as the ACLU Human Rights Program who participated in a human rights training workshop on Sunday January 22nd.

The water protectors still have a long battle ahead of them. In addition to the frigid weather, the state of North Dakota has introduced bills that make it illegal to wear masks at protests and for people to join the resistance camps  under threat of being fined $5,000 dollars.  Oh but what the North Dakota assembly attempted to make legal, by way of a bill introduction, is the “unintentional” mowing down of protesters being fast moving vehicles.

If these actions are not enough to make you cringe, the Trump administration denied a request by Dave Archambault II to engage in dialogue about moving forward with the oil pipeline. If the President is not even willing to hear both sides of the issue he is essentially declaring what side he stands for.

The fight to protect the water rights and the livelihoods of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is far from over. We must remain vigilant in this crucial time and do everything we can to stand in solidarity with those who have vowed to protect the land, tribal sovereignty, and clean water.

Please add your comment to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Impact Statement at lakotalaw.org.dapl-action before the filing period ends on Feb. 20.

Oil Spill 150 Miles from Water Protectors’ Camp Confirms DAPL Risks

Time and time again, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren promised that the Dakota Access Pipeline was following proper regulations in its construction and would not spill once complete. Despite the gratuitous amount of evidence of federal and tribal law violations and the denial of easement by the Army Corps of Engineers to drill under Lake Oahe, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) remain determined to finish construction “without any additional rerouting”— essentially admitting that they would break more federal laws if it meant completing DAPL.

However, a recent oil spill in North Dakota negates any reassurances that these oil companies care for public safety.

On Dec. 5th, a landowner near Belfield, ND a city 150 miles away from Cannon Ball discovered a spill from the Belle Fourche Pipeline. The leak was contained within hours, yet more than 176,000 gallons spilled in the Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary of the Little Missouri River, as monitoring equipment failed to detect the leak sooner. Two cows were found dead in the area, but it is unknown if the deaths are related to the oil spill.

Wendy Owens, spokesperson for True Companies which operates the Belle Fourche Pipeline, told Associated Press (AP) that the rupture was likely from a hillside slump, but it remains as just a theory.

Unfortunately, this company is one of many to have a massive histories of pipeline leaks. Since 2006, there were 36 reported spills totalling 320,000 gallons of oil from True Companies, 10 of which were from the Belle Fourche Pipeline alone. They also operate the Poplar Pipeline which in January 2015 leaked 30,000 gallons into the Yellowstone River, resulting in the shutdown of drinking water for the town of Glendive’s 6,000 residents.

With such news so close to the water protectors in Standing Rock, and seeing as the leak almost could have leaked into the Missouri River, it does little to reassure that ETP would be any better. This past October a pipeline operated by their subsidiary, Sunoco Logistics, leaked 55,000 gallons near the Susquehanna River. Water protectors like Dallas Goldtooth find this as more proof the the oil industry’s corruption and lacking care for public safety.

“This should encourage everyone who believes in protecting Mother Earth that we need to examine and critique every fossil fuel project that’s being put on the table,” Goldtooth said in an interview with NBC News.

Nothing that any of Energy Transfer’s officials say will erase the fact that they not only violated environmental protection laws, but also tribal treaties and rights, leading to excessive police force within the past few months. Their refusal to properly acknowledge any human rights violations or the order of the Obama Administration because they’ll lose a lot of money paints how little Energy Transfer cares about anyone or anything but their profits.

With Energy Transfer too stubborn to listen to reason, the water protectors remain near Cannon Ball to continue protesting through the winter months.

According to Lakota People’s Law Project attorney Chase Iron Eyes in an interview with TYT Politics, there are still more than a thousand people in Oceti Sakowin Camp — now referred to as Oceti Oyate, or the People’s Camp committed to remain  until the pipeline is completely gone. While the announcement denying easement to ETP is in the right direction, some water protectors have little trust in the government to follow through.

“If we don’t stand up not only for tribal nations but for all Americans we’re looking down some deep dark times here,” Iron Eyes said. “We don’t know what’s ahead of us when Trump takes office.”

With president-elect Donald Trump’s support in DAPL’s completion, there is still a high likelihood he could overturn the Corps’s decision and give easement to Energy Transfer anyway. His transition team claims the project would “benefit all Americans” and the country’s energy infrastructure, but there are also major conflicts of interest. Trump  owns stock in Energy Transfer, and his pick for Secretary of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, is on the board of the directors for the company.  His pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a CEO for ExxonMobil with zero experience in politics.

It makes absolutely no sense for Trump to claim that he will “drain the swamp” of corrupt politicians and ban lobbyists when he’s appointing those same people for his cabinet. It is even worse to claim DAPL will “benefit all Americans” when Native Americans’ sovereignty and human rights are being violated. Campers don’t even have access to resources like food, water and shelter as the roadblock to Oceti Oyate is still up, forcing the water protectors to be self-sufficient in the case emergency vehicles can’t get to the camp.

The oil industry is a very broken part of America’s energy infrastructure which needs stricter regulations that will be enforced so news about oil leaks won’t occur every month or so, or better yet, do away with oil in favor of energy resources that are renewable and safer to obtain.

“We have the critical mass to compel our people to change,” Iron Eyes continued in the interview. The fight is far from over and won’t stop until DAPL is gone and Native American rights are properly respected. Profit can never be prioritized over American health and safety.

Keep up the momentum and join our cause. Send an email directly to President Obama to stay strong in support for Standing Rock.

Sign our petition for banks to defund DAPL and take our resolution to your bank urging them to divest.

Find out more about donations to the Oceti Sakowin Camp as their fight continues through the winter.

Despite Victory in Dakota Access Pipeline Reroute, Energy Transfer Ignores Denial of Easement

Water protectors were granted a partial victory on Dec. 4th when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that no easement will be granted for Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction to continue under Lake Oahe, and alternate routes will be examined.

Over the course of the last month, winter has come to Cannonball, ND, and those same protectors have been met with serious confrontations from police and escalating threats from the state of North Dakota. People from all over the country have diverted their attention to Standing Rock, and speak out against DAPL.

Sunday’s announcement is an impressive feat for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, after concerns as to how long the Obama Administration planned to “let it play out” before taking any action.

This decision comes after thousands of veterans arrive at Oceti Sakowin, the main camp for the #NoDAPL occupation, promising to act as “human shields” between the militarized police and the water protectors. Similarly, the denial of the easement validates the claim that Energy Transfer never properly consulted the tribe for construction in the area, despite arguments in the lawsuit they filed on Nov. 16th.

However, the fight is far from over.

The same day as the Corps’s announcement, Energy Transfer issued a statement that they will still complete construction “without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.” With the company admitting that they will disregard federal and tribal law to save themselves millions of dollars, the Corps’s announcement needs immediate enforcement to prevent illegal drilling. Asking to voluntarily stop construction isn’t working, as Energy Transfer has already refused to do so three times.

A concern also exists that the Corps’s decision could be reversed once Donald Trump takes office in January, as he has vocalized support for the pipeline’s completion.

Excessive use of force by law enforcement in months prior has been condemned by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai. On top of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, 528 people arrested since August, and detainment has been in overcrowded cages with insufficient medical care.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse due to the violent actions of a few,” said Kiai in his report. “The use of violence by some protesters should not be used as a justification to nullify the peaceful assembly rights of everyone else.”

On Nov. 20th, water protectors were met with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets by police after trying to clear two damaged military trucks blocking Highway 1806. More than 300 protesters were injured, facing hypothermia with temperatures as low as 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens were hospitalized, including tribal elders,  and a 13-year-old named Vanessa was shot in the face and has damage to her cornea, and Sophia Wilanksy almost lost her arm after the police threw a grenade and is still undergoing treatment for tissue reconstruction.

The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed a lawsuit against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier, and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against water protectors on Nov. 20.

Four days after the violence on Backwater Bridge, on Thanksgiving Day, water protectors occupied Turtle Island on Cannonball River in remembrance of Indigenous genocide.

While the U.S Army Corps of Engineers survey the area to determine a different route for the pipeline, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not rescinded his evacuation notice that identifies any campers remaining after Dec. 5 as trespassers. Despite the easement denial, we must remain vigilant in any action taken to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline in a way that infringes on sovereign Standing Rock Sioux territory.

It is our obligation as stewards of the water to defund DAPL and to continue to urge the Obama administration to stand strong against this pipeline and in solidarity with 18 million people who rely on the Missouri River for clean drinking water. Sign our petition at lakotalaw.org to tell President Obama that he must remain vigilant on this issue and continue to order the Corps to stand down in the face of corporate greed.

Future DAPL Operator’s Pennsylvania Pipeline Leaked

Despite the millions of voices worldwide speaking out against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), parent company Energy Transfer remains unmoved.

CEO Kelcy Warren assured his employees that they thoroughly spoke with the Standing Rock Sioux, and that DAPL wouldn’t threaten the Missouri River. However, a recent pipeline leak in Pennsylvania by Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the DAPL, coupled with the continuing protests, astonishing arrests and abuses in North Dakota suggest otherwise.

Environmental Danger

On Oct. 20th, heavy rainfall led to the Sunoco pipeline bursting, leaking 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run which connects to the Susquehanna River. Although the pipeline was shut down, the continuing rainfall and flash flooding made it hard to immediately assess the damage, with residents being  warned against using water from the river. With the water now receded, no serious problems arose except an odor, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the Susquehanna River safe for drinking again.

Not only does the Susquehanna River provide drinking water to 6 million people along the Chesapeake Bay but it is also listed by American Rivers as the third most endangered river in the US due to fracking from the natural gas industry. This leak brings to question Sunoco’s pipeline management, as their pipelines spill frequently — with more than 200 recorded leaks since 2010.

The same is expected to happen to the Standing Rock Sioux with DAPL, and potentially at a worse scale, since Sunoco Logistics, the future operator, has proven to be severely incompetent.

Human Rights Abuses

After the 127 arrests from Oct. 22nd and 23rd, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was called upon by Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault to investigate the pipeline developments and the excessive force used by law enforcement. Until the DOJ addresses the issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux, no final permits will be issued to Energy Transfer for construction bordering or under Lake Oahe. Once again, they requested the company to voluntarily halt construction.

Last week another 141 protesters were arrested —  making the arrest count more than 400 since the protests began. The arrestees were placed in temporary holding cells, which many are calling dog kennels, and had numbers written on their skin in black marker.

The use of these cages was upheld by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department for the mass arrests, seeing as Morton County Correctional Center only has room for 42 inmates at a time.

Morton officials also assured that the protesters had access to the bathroom, food and water, but firsthand accounts say that they had to wait for basic necessities and medical attention. One example is Johanna Holy Elk Face, a 63 year old diabetic woman who had high blood sugar at the time, which would have potentially led to a seizure had her treatment been delayed any longer while she was in custody.

Because of these mass arrests, a UN permanent forum on indigenous rights is investigating these human rights abuses.

Federal Inaction

This past Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would look into rerouting DAPL around sacred native land. In an interview with NowThis, he said the government will “let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

It’s finally a step in the right direction after months worth of pleas from protesters to halt construction, however, they can’t afford to be left waiting for federal action when the human rights and federal law violations are far too obvious and constant to ignore or wait to see what the other side has to say. There is no doubt that the police are overstepping their power, and Energy Transfer is guilty of neglecting environmental protection, tribal sovereignty and historical preservation.

The day after Obama’s interview, law enforcement clashed with protesters as they tried crossing Cantapeta Creek to Cannonball Ranch and faced pepper spray while wading through the water. This came after Energy Transfer found Native American artifacts along the route of DAPL last month and failed to report it to state regulators within 10 days.

While the company moved the route away from the artifacts, the lack of a report will likely get them fined up to $200,000. This also violates Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites where “each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites.”

Between the federal law violations and human rights abuses which appear to be increasing every day, federal action cannot be delayed any further, especially with Obama’s presidency coming so close to an end. He has good intentions to hope for a peaceful solution, but it won’t come any sooner if action is postponed, especially given how excessively violent North Dakota law enforcement has become within the past few weeks.

There is no good to come from DAPL, and Energy Transfer and North Dakota law enforcement have broken far too many laws to just let it slide under the rug anymore. The protesters need immediate backing from federal action if their water and livelihood has any chance to live in peace.

Aggressive Action Against DAPL Protesters

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline carries on as construction continues amid requests from the Obama Administration to halt the project. As hostilities grow between campers and police, the arrest count is rising to an alarming rate with more than 260 arrests in the past two months.

On Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 8th, 27 protesters were arrested for trespassing, reckless endangerment and engaging in a riot, despite that they were actually partaking in peaceful prayer. Among those arrested included actress and environmental activist, Shailene Woodley, who recorded the events in a live stream via Facebook and showed police fully-equipped with riot gear and military vehicles.

Just this past weekend, another 127 protesters were arrested in a demonstration with 300 people at the construction site.

The militarization of North Dakota police has built up to a massive display of force since Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency in mid-August. Surveillance flights follow protesters, and police set up multiple roadblocks and checkpoints to prevent more from joining the Oceti Sakowin camp, by checking IDs and questioning drivers.

Some protesters were attacked with police dogs and pepper spray last month. Energy Transfer hired G4S, a controversial private security organization known for servicing prisons. They have assisted officials in blocking roads and surveilling protesters.

Police support in Morton County is expected to grow as stated in a press conference by Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier earlier this month. Ironically, Kirchmeier is worried about “outside agitators” when an unnecessary amount of force is being brought in from out-of-state in opposition of a peaceful protest.

Along with the militarization, the charges against the water protectors have risen to an extreme, with many individuals arrested for trespassing and inciting riots despite Energy Transfer having no right to construct along Lake Oahe in the first place, as it violates federal and tribal laws meant to protect the land from being taken from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In a recent report by the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), a group of attorneys providing legal consultation for the water protectors stated that the police’s tactics have been found abusive and in violation of First and Fourth Amendment rights. The police have also alerted local farmers to “arm themselves” should anyone trespass their land, and officers have stopped wearing their name-plates and badge numbers which is illegal for a North Dakota State Trooper to do. This is supposedly to prevent threats against their homes and families, but given the brutality that has occurred within the past few months and that an officer’s personal information can be difficult to obtain it’s really just an excuse to avoid the consequences to their actions.

Among those arrested include tribal leaders like Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, who revealed in an interview with “Democracy Now!” that he was strip searched after he was charged on Aug. 15th for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor offense. Charges were dropped against him Sept. 16 by a federal judge in Bismarck.

“I thought it was humorous, because I had to take all my clothes off, and then they wanted to check my braid for—and I don’t have a very thick braid for any weapons to hide, but so I thought it was pretty crazy and unnecessary to do a strip search and to check my hair,” Archambault recounted in the interview.

He also noted that of the five states the pipeline is set to run through, it is only North Dakota that is receiving extra police force from out of state. With the massive amount of arrests from this past weekend, Archambault is disappointed at the disregard of First Amendment rights from state and congressional politicians as well as Governor Dalrymple.

Their lack of leadership and commitment to creating a dialogue towards a peaceful solution reflects not only the unjust historical narrative against Native Americans, but a dangerous trend in law enforcement tactics across America,” said Archambault in a statement to North Dakota’s local NBC news.

Freedom of press was recently put in jeopardy when “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman who reported protesters being pepper sprayed and having dogs sicced on them on September 3rd  faced trespassing and riot charges five days afterwards. They were dropped this past week due to lacking evidence or motivation. Meanwhile journalists from Unicorn Riot continue to be arrested for their coverage of the movement.

North Dakota State Attorney Ladd Erickson argued in favor of the charges by indicating to newspapers like Grand Forks Herald and The Bismarck Tribune that Goodman wasn’t a journalist because her report was biased in “justifying the protest actions.”

But a journalist’s job is to report on current events, especially when human rights abuses are involved, and there is absolutely no justification to use attack dogs on peaceful protesters.

The protest against DAPL needs to be documented as it is still going strong, and there are still ongoing violations of federal law and First Amendment rights. The claims of riots and violence only try to discredit why the water protectors are there to begin with, and it disregards any wrongdoings done by Energy Transfer and police force within the past year. As indicated by Archambault, without any open dialogue toward compromise these problems will only get worse in a never-ending cycle of injustice.

The land rightfully belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux, and Energy Transfer violated historical preservation, environmental protection, and tribal sovereignty in order to build a pipeline. Energy Transfer needs to stop grasping at straws to justify construction when they are the only ones breaking any laws.

Donate to Legal Support for the Water Protectors: https://cldc.org/2016/10/20/in-standing-rock-the-cops-are-out-of-control/

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Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40969298@N05/29485116115/in/photostream/

EPA Plans For Better Cleanup After Gold King Mine Spill

A year after the Gold King Mine spilled three million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Animas River, the EPA last week announced the site as a Superfund site, where a polluted area is required for a long-term cleanup and becomes eligible for federal funding to do so. With the Bonita Peak Mining District now on the National Priorities List, the agency will devote $1 billion for better investigating and addressing contamination concerns for those along the San Juan River, including the Navajo Nation who are still waiting for compensation for lost crops and reassurance of the water’s quality. The Navajo Nation is hesitant  to use any water for farming and livestock, as they are skeptical of the water’s safety and concerned with long-term health effects from the spill.

The EPA’s announcement comes a few weeks after the Navajo Nation sued them for an insufficient cleanup after the Gold King Mine Spill and the lack of compensation for lost crops for a year. Almost 3,000 farms and ranches were affected as they stopped irrigating from the river and crops dried up and livestock were sold due to lacking resources to maintain them. Some remain doubtful that the river will ever be restored with lacking reassurances of safety and over a century’s worth of mining affecting the area with hundreds of abandoned mines near the Animas River which were poorly constructed and managed.

Even a bipartisan group of senators want to expedite the reimbursement to those affected by the Gold King Mine Spill. They introduced an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act which would force the EPA to pay eligible claims made after October 2015 within 90 days. County officials, local companies and individuals through the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah are still waiting for thousands of dollars worth of reimbursement with some only being paid in part and others receiving nothing so far.

While these issues should have been addressed long ago with the EPA taking responsibility for the Gold King Mine Spill, it is a relief to environmental and tribal activists that the agency will better assess the damage and devote what will likely be 10 years into cleanup of the Animas and San Juan Rivers. The Navajo Nation had to wait for far too long for their concerns to be properly addressed with their livelihoods at stake. It seems that the EPA is finally taking full, genuine accountability for the Gold King Mine Spill and will address the increasing complaints.

With a newfound hope for the Navajo and their livelihood to be fully restored, these developments from the EPA are the course of action we need to see in light of the Dakota Access Pipeline which will threaten the water supply of the Standing Rock Tribe and the 18 million people living downstream. While the Obama Administration temporarily halted construction near the reservation, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren announced that 60 percent of the pipeline is finished and vows to complete construction, saying that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.” The violation of basic human rights will not be ignored and the voices against the pipeline will only become louder until construction halts indefinitely and Energy Transfer accepts accountability.

 

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image Source: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/navajo-nation-sues-federal-government-for-gold-king-mine-spill-8556166 [Photographer: Jerry McBride]