By MARTY GOODMAN
In a move that surprised no one for its greed and arrogance, on Jan. 24 President Donald Trump reversed President Obama’s Executive Order impeding construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The route of the pipeline goes across sacred Sioux land and under the Missouri River near Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Delivering on a promised one-two punch against climate sanity and Native American rights, climate change denier Trump also approved restarting the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, halted in November 2015 and stretching all the way from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
In order to stoke chauvinist rhetoric that attempts to address the burning desire of working families for good jobs at decent pay, Trump said that the pipelines must be “American made.” That might sound promising to some because the Democrats have done little to create good paying jobs. But here’s the kicker: Trump promises 28,000 jobs at Keystone XL, but a State Department review found that the project would yield only 35 permanent jobs! Trump invited Keystone to re-apply to start digging.
The fossil fuel industry’s blitzkrieg has outraged Native Americans who are vowing to take the fight to a new level. “We will fight back through the courts, protest in any means possible and necessary,” said Ariel Derenger of the Athabasca first nation.
After court challenges by the Sioux Nation, if what’s called an “easement” or permission to dig under the Missouri and Lake Oahe, a source of drinking water for the Sioux and millions downstream, is granted, and if the digging resumes, it is estimated it could take as little as two weeks to complete the pipeline. But that depends, again, on the courts and the mass movement. John Hasselman, an attorney for the Sioux Nation, says that stopping the oil in the pipes through the courts is still a possibility. He states that Trump “unlawfully and arbitrarily sidestepped” the findings of the Obama administration.
We will see if any justice in the capitalist courts is possible, but the experience of Native Americans in this country is 400 years of rape, murder, theft of resources and broken treaties!
The flashpoint of resistance at Standing Rock has ignited unprecedented mobilizations and unity among over 100 Native American nations. In December, crowds were said to peak at 10,000, including thousands of native and non-native American solidarity activists from across the US and Canada, 3000 of whom were veterans.
The largest numbers of water protectors were in camp around the time Barack Obama ordered an environmental review on Dec. 4, demonstrating the power of mass mobilization for Standing Rock across the world. About 500 remain at Standing Rock in the sub-zero North Dakota weather.
At the present time, the main camp at Standing Rock, Oceti Sakowin, is being relocated due to oncoming spring floods in the plain area and a unanimous decision by the Tribal Nation Council, reiterated on Jan. 21, to leave the camp. Cops and security goons are taking quick advantage of the situation.
Diné water protector and videographer Marcus Mitchell spoke with Pacifica’s “Democracy Now!” (Jan. 25) lost sight in one eye after a police attack. He described cops brutalizing water protectors: “After about five minutes on the bridge, my hands were raised, and I was saying, ‘I am an American citizen practicing my First Amendment right to freedom of speech. I’m unarmed, and I am in peaceful protest.’ I was then shot in the leg. I looked down. And as I looked up, a beanbag hit me. … And then, another round came in my face and hit me—hit my eye directly.
“I then turned around to run and was nearly shot in the back of the head. At this point, I became disoriented. In the chaos, another water protector pushed me to the ground to protect me.”
Donald Trump invested up to $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners (owner of the Dakota Access pipeline), but last year was reported to have divested his stock in the company. Nevertheless, he was the recipient of large campaign contributions from Energy Transfer Partners head Kelcy Warren—including a $100,000 check to the Trump Victory Fund.
What’s more, in June 2015, Warren gave $5 million to a PAC that supported the presidential campaign of Ex-Governor Rick Perry, now Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Energy. Perry sat on the board of Energy Transfer Partners until Jan. 5 and also Sunoco—a corporation that also is involved the Standing Rock pipeline. During his time as Texas governor, Perry distributed hundreds of millions in “incentives” to corporations wishing to do business in Texas.
The nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is the longtime CEO of Exxon Mobil, the wealthiest corporation in the world and the biggest threat to the climate’s survival.
The Democrats hardly pose as an alternative to Trump’s fossil fuel madness. Hillary Clinton refused to speak out against rampant police brutality against peaceful protesters at Standing Rock, seen by millions in news broadcasts and YouTube videos across the world (which has continued), while she continued to pose natural gas as an alternative to coal. Senate Democratic Minority leader Chuck Schumer has been a big recipient of Wall Street donations, including from energy companies.
Donald Trump’s orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines sparked a number of emergency protests in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, and other cities. Josh Fox, filmmaker and protest organizer, told “Democracy Now!” that “we had, we think, between 2000 and 5000 people last night in New York City in the freezing rain.”
Thousands of No DAPL protesters are expected at this #SuperSundayMarch in Pershing Square in Los Angeles. (Stay in touch with #NoDAPL and #NoKXL, Stand With Standing Rock and Labor for Standing Rock).
Troy Fairbanks, the sixth-generation grandson of Sitting Bull, told the British Guardian, “Have we as Native people ever been given a fair shake? Nah. But this time, the whole world is watching.”
Another method of resistance was shown by Local 10 of the International Longshore Workers Union, which carried out a one-day strike at Bay Area ports on Jan. 20, the day of Trump’s inauguration. This points a way toward further labor action against Trump and his billionaires. Militant labor action, alongside oppressed communities within the working class, can ultimately take down the whole rotten system, now plunging headlong toward environmental disaster.
Photo: Water protectors in a snowstorm near Standing Rock, North Dakota.