By Emma Niles –
While President Donald J. Trump sharply changed the federal government’s approach to the environment this week as he cleared the way for two major oil pipelines that had been blocked by the Obama administration by signing presidential memorandums calling for the continued construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline, Native American and environmental advistists in North Dakota and around the country say they are determined to fight back.
Those opposing the Dakota Access pipeline, who call themselves water protectors, are urging supporters to return to North Dakota to aid in a new wave of resistance. This comes in contrast to events in December when Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leaders asked that fewer people join the demonstrations and take a break due to the harsh winter conditions north of Cannon Ball.
“We do need people to come, but we need people to be self-sufficient,” said Chase Iron Eyes, one of the protest leaders, speaking to with Jordan Chariton of The Young Turks. “We need people to be disciplined.”
Commenting on the economic blockade affecting the tribe and occupants of the water protector camps, he said there has been no accountability on the part of local and state officials who reacted violently to the peaceful, non-violent protests.
“Morton County has not been held accountable. The governor has not been held accountable,” he said. “We demand that the blockade be lifted.”
Several two-ton concrete blocks, barbed wire fencing and National Guard vehicles have been placed in the way of protesters, preventing access to the construction area on land near the reservation.
“I mean, it looks like Gaza,” Iron Eyes said.
Last week, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill that will let oil companies avoid reporting oil spills if a spill doesn’t exceed 420 gallons.
Groups and individuals are already moving to support the new wave of action against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Following Trump’s memorandums, a group of U.S. veterans launched a fundraiser for the water protectors.
“In the past two weeks the turmoil and uncertainty at Standing Rock has increased significantly,” according to the fundraiser page of Veterans Stand. “We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock (and beyond) and our community is ready to mobilize.”
Journalist and civil rights activist Shaun King issued a call to action to support Standing Rock as part of his Injustice Boycott movement.
“In one day, Seattle’s City Council will decide if they will move forward and divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo. As you may know, Wells Fargo is a primary backer not only of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but of private prisons and so much other ugliness,” King said in an email blast to supporters. “We need to do everything we can to make sure this happens. We need to show Wells Fargo that we will NOT stand for injustice.”
King urged citizens to call and tweet Seattle council representatives to encourage them to cancel Seattle’s $3 billion contract.
Malia Obama made headlines for taking part in a #NoDAPL demonstration at the Sundance Film Festival on the day Trump signed his pipeline memorandums.
Some water protectors have remained camped out for months, enduring North Dakota’s harsh winter. But they seem determined to fight the pipeline construction, even though President Trump is moving to offer “all necessary federal support” to end the protest once and for all, setting up a major confrontation.
“We’re willing to stay here until it’s out of the ground or we’re dead or arrested,” Iron Eyes says. “This is about the integrity of all Americans’ constitutional rights and whether or not you have a right to free speech or the right to peaceably assemble.”
An earlier version of this story first appeared on the liberal news site Truthdig.
© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.