Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have endured for nearly a year, intensifying by the day. Native American water protectors, activists, and journalists have all been targeted with arrest and surveillance. Those on the ground aren’t deterred, and seemingly feed off what they’ve endured. This erupted in a confrontation where water protectors took turns verbally shaming a line of militarized officers. If this isn’t some of the most epic Cop Blocking of the year, what is?
Democracy Now was on the ground with host Amy Goodman when the protesters challenged a police line. Goodman’s team has been on the front line at Dakota Access alongside water protectors since last spring. The pipeline, sometimes described as a reincarnated Keystone XL, is slated as a $3.8 billion dollar project.
Carving it’s way through native lands and water sources, DAPL is expected to carry 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Activists and Native American tribes, who consider water protection a cultural tradition, have decried DAPL as environmental rape. Not only that, but the corporate conglomeration profiting from DAPL eagerly ignore how construction destroys Native burial sites.
Their coverage made international headlines after private contractors were filmed unleashing attack dogs on peaceful marchers. One of the dogs, Goodman pointed, had blood dripping from its nose and mouth.
Water protectors, Democracy Now showed, were headed to a site to pray for the land and water. A line of police blocked the road in armored vehicles carrying rifles, batons, some wearing military camouflage. According to Goodman, officers told activists “walk no further or you’ll be arrested.” Water protectors then decided to verbally express themselves to the silent police line. A group of women, who originally approached asking for passage, spoke first.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves for your behavior today”, yelled one masked woman. “You drink the water, as do the children! And your children will suffer!” “We are an endangered species as are you! We stand here to protect you as well today! You should be ashamed of yourselves for showing up as we pray with your batons out, trying to intimidate and harass us! But guess what! Our prayers are stronger than your weapons!”
“I’m here for my grandchildren”, said another woman, unmasked.“For my grandchildren’s grandchildren! For your grandchildren! Will you hit us with those wands? We are women! We are unarmed! We are here to pray, for you! Do you feel good holding those wands against a line of women? Go back home and tell your wives, your mothers, your grandmothers that you are prepared to hit women with batons for exercising our right to free speech! Our right to freedom of religion! Our right to protect our land! You go home and you tell your mothers that, see how they feel!”
A young native man, also unmasked, stepped to the front of water protectors. “A lot of us live off these lands! We hunt from these lands! We eat from these lands! We live here! Could you protect them [DAPL corporation] while they destroy it? What you going to do when there’s no more grass growing? No more river flowing? No more wildlife, no more game to hunt? What you gonna do? You going to depend on the government? Are you!? No, you’re not! Because they’re going to back stab you just like they back stabbed us! Think about it! All you non-white people in there, think about it! Think about the what the white man has done to your ancestors, what he’s done to our ancestors! I’m not scared to come and say this to you guys! I come with no mask! This line, this security, it don’t intimidate me! I’m a warrior! I will defend my people! And my land! My home: Standing Rock!”
Dakota Access contractors and government authorities have steadily escalated surveillance and intimidation practices at the reservation. Several journalists, including Goodman herself, have been arrested simply for covering the resistance. Goodman’s charges, in fact, came five days after Democracy Now’s dog attack footage went viral. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was also charged for participating in protests. Actress Shailene Woodley was similarly arrested while live streaming to over 400,000 people.
Others have reported surveillance planes, drones, and militarized police following them about. Authorities even conducted a military-style raid on men, women, and children who were praying. Eye witnesses attempting to stream what was happening claimed their Facebook access was being blocked. As they filmed, water protectors described how a plane had just flown past spraying something as authorities surrounded them.
One Standing Rock resident, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, reported her daughter was arrested while driving on a highway with friends. Brave Bull Allard states her daughter’s charges weren’t clear. “Well first it was for speeding”, she explains to TYT Politics, “my daughter wasn’t driving. So then they said it was ‘hindering an officer’. And then the second charge was ‘hindering a government project’, she was driving on the road. Then it was ‘$500 because she lived at the camp’. Then it was ‘$1000’ because they didn’t like her ‘attitude’.” Her daughter was then allegedly thrown in a jail cell naked and denied clothing until the following morning.
Another resident and water protector, Cody Hall, states he’s constantly watched. Hall isn’t just trailed by police– often fully armored, carrying rifles–but also DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) security. DAPL contractors, Hall says, drive rented trucks which don’t have license plates.
As tensions rise, water protectors have taken to locking themselves to construction equipment. These have halted construction several times before those individuals too were taken into custody. Days ago, reports of construction equipment being set ablaze circulated on mainstream news. It’s currently unknown who set the fires, which costs the DAPL corporation $2 million in damages. DAPL recently issued a $100,000 reward for information regarding the fires, which haven’t been directly connected to peaceful protesters or water protectors.
“But the list has come out’, says Brave Bull Allard, “they are targeting our families. We are up against a billion dollar corporation at this time and they are using every means necessary. We have the helicopters, the planes, the drones that are going through doing facial recognition as we talk. They have come down into the camps, they count the number of people that are here, what we’re doing. And, they are here constantly. They monitor everyone as we walk.
This and who knows what else is occurring on a daily basis in Standing Rock, North Dakota. In the face of such state measures, the bravery of activists, journalists, and water protectors is beyond words. Cop Block and Cop Blockers pride themselves in standing up to state intimidation and brutality. That crowd of water protectors, who fearlessly shamed officers to their faces, fit the definition of Cop Blocking. They faced arrest, harm, dehumanization or even death as helicopters and drones flew overhead. From them, many can take an example of how much power they really have. Let those digging in for a winter-long resistance at Standing Rock demonstrate what you can do.