Dispatches From Standing Rock, Where Things Are Getting Ugly

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Dispatches From Standing Rock, Where Things Are Getting Ugly

My friend Dave Swinton, a Methodist minister from Des Moines, IA, has been attending the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Sacred Stone Camp at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. He has been filing dispatches on Facebook during the past few days to report his observations from the protests. He was there on the night of November 20 when police turned water cannons on the protesters in sub-freezing temperatures, and he witnessed a young woman protester whose arm was almost severed by a concussion grenade.

Dave is a good writer and a fair-minded, trustworthy person; moreover, it’s important to get the word out about what’s really happening at Standing Rock at a time when the mainstream media’s coverage is either nonexistent or inaccurate. Here are a few of his dispatches from North Dakota:

November 20, 8:49 p.m.: “Things are pretty tense outside the camp. A group went to the bridge north of us to move burned trucks off the road. At least two people were struck with rubber bullets. Others are being sprayed with water in the freezing weather. A helicopter with spotlights is flying overhead. And a plane with no lights is buzzing the camp. Word is that it is blocking cell phone signals. Please pray for everyone here, through the night and into the morning. Every gathering we have attended here has been bathed in song, prayer, and peacefulness.”

November 20, 9:06 p.m.: “Tear gas and perhaps concussion grenades being fired on the protestors. Call your TV stations and networks. Tell them to cover this!!!”

November 21, 8:55 a.m.: “I just attended the debriefing. The group had gone to the bridge to remove the trucks barricading the bridge. Many Standing Rock people have to go a half hour out of their way to work or to the hospital because of the barricade. The police promised to remove it 3 weeks ago. The demonstrators were peaceful. We have seen the beanbags and rubber projectiles fired. None of the protesters set fires. (Update: there were bonfires nearby to help warm people who had been sprayed. Another fire was sparked by whatever was being shot at the protesters.)

By midnight, over 200 people were treated for injuries. The media have been repeating misinformation. Shame the media into covering this and uncovering what happened last night. The over-reaction by the sheriff’s department would make Bull Conner blush. Friends, I am far from a wild-eyed radical. I’m just usually a preacher who wants to make everyone happy. This is very uncomfortable for me. But I’ve never been in a situation that seemed so full of blatant lies by the people we should be able to trust.”

November 21, 6:21 p.m.: “Thank you everyone for your shares, comments, and notes. I haven’t had good connectivity today and have been very busy so I haven’t been able to respond as I would like. I truly appreciate your responses. And the people here are greatly encouraged that you are spreading the word. I’m against how this pipeline has been forced on people, but I feel ten times more anger at how these local police have escalated with violence and how peaceful demonstrators have been injured and arrested.

I have been a police chaplain. I know many honorable, talented, and professional police officers. But that is not what I saw last night or today. Although it may do nothing to advance the goal of redirecting the pipeline, I believe that President Obama needs to get professionals in here who know how to work with demonstrators before people are killed.”

November 22 at 2:22 p.m.: “Five Brief Points About the DAPL Pipeline:

The pipeline was originally proposed to go north of Bismarck, but people did not want to put their municipal water systems at risk. So the route was moved. The people who are now objecting apparently do not have the same influence.

The pipeline has been assisted by the use of eminent domain. This is what the government uses to clear the way for roads and other public projects. It should not be used for corporations. This is something that liberals and conservatives should be able to agree on.

Farmers and other landowners now have a partial sense of what has happened to native people for the last several hundred years. When powerful people want access or the natural resources on their lands, they take them. And they have always found a ‘legal’ way to do it.

The land where the pipeline is to cross under the Missouri is only a mile north of the reservation. If there is a spill it would be catastrophic for the people and the environment nearby. The company building the pipeline and the company that is to operate it have the worst safety records in the industry.

I keep hearing that there are professional protestors at Standing Rock. I am still waiting on my check. To be clear, there are some people here who are experienced organizers. Their experience helps keep the demonstrations safer. The Elders of the gathered tribes make all the decisions. The presence of people who are not native or local simply means that the tribe has wide support.”

November 22 at 3:28 p.m.: “Please read this comment from a native woman who shared my post from yesterday:

‘Thank you Pastor for your words of encouragement in a hailstorm of despair. I know it may seem like a barrage to your senses, but as native peoples it becomes par for the course. We are used to our land being taken, and there we are left with a piece of paper, no president has ever honored, not even this latest one, who was all up in our face, promising this and promising that, a shitty comment at every open door, a bad call at every ball game, a middle finger at every win, a resounding ‘No!’ when it involves our sovereignty. This last barrage, so many resources, so many strong words to use, so many noble men and women, but yet North Dakota chooses, war! Well we choose prayer! Thank you Pastor, your page brings hope.’”

If you want to support the work of the protesters who are opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, you can donate here or donate to the Sacred Stone Legal Defense fund.

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