23 people had been arrested for resisting the construction of the Bakken Pipeline in North Dakota when I started writing this piece a few weeks ago. At the moment, there seems to be a 20 mile "buffer zone" being held in which protestors are successfully preventing further digging.
The project is intended to cut through sites sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux, including their graveyards, which would be enough of a blow in itself. The more sinister threat is to the groundwater. It's no wonder the protestors are being called water protectors.
Quite understandably, the project has met resistance, with people locking themselves to construction equipment among other direct, nonviolent actions. The reaction to the Native resistance and their various allies? Pipeline security complete with pepper spray and attack dogs, followed by The National Guard and another emanation of what is to me of the spookiest trends of all: militarized police. The picture below is of a truck mounted sonic weapon called an LRAD. It's Army surplus, clumsily painted in black and white. Developed to knock birds out of the sky and assault pirates, it has been adopted for crowd control. It blasts a focused beam of sound wherever it is aimed that can torture or deafen. Cops do not need this thing. This is a toy for bullies.
So why are you having to find out about this on blogs? The media silence is hardly surprising. News is a business, not a utility. There's no money in ugly truth, especially for those who cut their teeth on exaggerated celebrity scandal and glassy-eyed corporate shilling.
Not everyone thought it should go unreported, but it's an election year and the media does what it's paid to/told so it was down to the fringe until the story got traction on Twitter. I am a little amused that my main source of on-scene info comes from a censored source called Unicorn Riot, whose reporters were arrested along with protesters. Facebook, it should be noted, was tagging Unicorn Ninja's live feeds of the arrests as "malicious," and they were blocked. Thanks, Zuckhead.
I'm always in support of the side that's receiving the pepper spray and sound canons and attack dogs. I should be fair. what do the cops say? Here's the Sheriff:
“Carlo Voli and Corey Maxa were arrested Tuesday, September 13th and will face an additional charge of reckless endangerment for attaching themselves to equipment…
The Morton County States Attorney’s office will pursue felony charges against the protesters who attached themselves to equipment due to the seriousness of the crime. Law enforcement officers are put in a dangerous situation when freeing these individuals, there is also a danger posed to DAPL, their workers and equipment along with the protester putting themselves also in a dangerous circumstance. We continue to encourage people to protest in peaceful and lawful manners.”
In other words, wave signs and tweet all you want because that won't slow down production, but don't get serious or it's riot gear and "less-lethal" weapons. This is reminiscent of the "free speech zones" at party conventions where one is "allowed" to protest in "designated" areas, the WTO protests in Seattle, the Occupy crackdowns all over, the Black Lives Matter marches against police brutality that were met with more violence. More often than not, especially these days, we find ourselves with an ugly realization:
The cops work for the crooks, whether they know it or not, and many up top certainly do know. Some of them really go for it with gusto.
So what do the crooks say? Dakota Access says their pipeline is safe as it will monitor pressures and shut off to halt leaks, but declaring your own project safe does not solve any of these problems. Is there independent proof of this? We can't trust the pipeline company to tell us if the pipeline is safe for the forseeable future just like we can't trust the USDA to police its own slaughterhouses. Do you know what else was declared safe from the inside? Let's have a little walk through industrial disaster history. Just the hits, to keep it brief.
Chernobyl, USSR. In fact, the meltdown of the core reactor occurred during a safety drill.
Bhopal, India. Ask the people who woke up that day suffocating on insecticide how safe they felt, if you can find one.
More recently, Fukushima, Japan. Don't click that link if you want to sleep.
Don't forget the BP oil spills (with an s) or the now classic Exxon Valdez. Red tides of dead fish. Blackened ducks being scrubbed by desperate people with toothbrushes. How about the PG&E case of carcinogenic groundwater pollution (you know, Erin Brocovich) from a natural gas pipeline? How about Roman lead levels in the water of Flint, Michigan? How about the petro-sludge coming out of the tap and occasionally exploding in every single town near fracking operations? How long do we need to boil in this pot?
The history of oil actually began with snake oil, moving on to lamp light, and by a bit of a fluke, replacing early vehicles that ran on electricity and ethanol with those that ran on gasoline. Lands have been destroyed, cultures uprooted, and aquifers poisoned in the pursuit of black gold. These people care about making money, and that's it. They know damn well that there is not any part at all of the fossil fuel system that does not ruin what it touches, from procurement to production. It wasn't long ago the CEO of Nestle said clean water is not a human right, and as he happens to sell water, you have to wonder if he's secret-handshake pals with everyone who's destroying the national supply so casually.
My father was a computer programmer and I was raised knowing Murphy's Law. If it can screw up, it will, and in this case, screwing up means the utter ruin of the little land these people have been allowed to hang on to. The men ordering the digging of trenches and laying of pipe are calling "safe" but I'm not convinced, and neither are the Standing Rock Sioux. It's a hell of a gamble for them, but not so for the human oil slicks that bleed the Earth dry at the expensive of little things like life itself. There's always some other population to ignore in the pursuit of black gold if North Dakota doesn't pan out, which is why we're sending so many people into the thresher on the other side of the world.
But that's enough venom from me. This is Apocalypse Fatigue, not Angry Doom Boner. The point of my story is that yes, this is awful, but there's a glint of hope. I want you to look at some pictures from around the world.
Look first at these two sets of human eyes, and the beauty of the tension between resistance and control.
This is taken from Chile, where protestors honored the "disappeared" victims of the Pinochet regime. Her eyes say "We know what you did and what you'd do again". And bless her for making it plain. So should we all, in good time. The man hiding in that armor is really having a moment, too. I don't believe he thought this would happen when he signed up.
Did he jump at the chance to be a hero only to learn the hard way that it was only a dream inspired by a nightmare? He might have a girl her age at home. He might be wondering what he's going to tell her about all this.
It reminds me of this picture from a few months ago in Baton Rouge:
Another young woman who's had enough. More scared men in ridiculous costumes, knowing in their quivering guts that they're on the wrong side of history.
From my little bubble of white-male privilege, I see hope in the defiance these pictures illustrate. If this is the overdue return of the Do-No-Harm-But-Take-No-Shit Divine Feminine of days past to her rightful place of power, let us all breathe a sigh of relief as the ten thousand year Dick vs Dick show of the Rabid Male Domination Con at last fades to black.
The defense of the people against the corporate death grip is overdue. It's happening at a pace so slow as to be agonizing, but it is happening. Nothing else can, really. We know how it ends, otherwise.