November 29, 2016 Those who think the dedicated conviction of non-violent protectors can be trumped by the application of ever-more damaging force always find that they are either totally vanquished – or left standing in the ruin they have created. The coming weeks are shaping up as a repetition of this everlasting drama of moral suasion versus brutality-at-law. Perhaps politicians will step in with an acknowledgement of where justice lies. Would that there are to be no more outrageous casualties among the warriors whose chief weapon is the urgency of justice. May there be,, at long last, a merciful end of tyranny against indigenous peoples and the rightness of their view of the world. But first the news.

Reading Court News

Request for postponement of upcoming trial

The next We Are Seneca Lake trial date is tentatively set for Thursday, December 8th at 9:30 am in Reading Town Court, for Defenders Marie De Mott Grady, Jodi Dean, Josh Dolan, Elisa Evett, Leah Grady-Sayvetz, and Mimi Gridley.

However, Defense Attorney Sujata Gibson has requested this be adjourned (postponed) pending outcome of the appeal of an Phil Davis’ conviction Friday, November 18. Mr. Davis was sentenced to ten hours of community service and a $125 NYS surcharge. He was arrested during a peaceful protest outside the gates of the Crestwood gas storage facility in Reading with nine other individuals on December 21, 2014..

Ms. Gibson, an attorney with Schlather, Stumbar, Parks and Salk, stated after the trial that she planned to make an expedited appeal of Davis’ case, and that she believes the verdict was fundamentally wrong.

“We are getting inconsistent rulings on these cases and the legal standards being applied appear to be fundamentally flawed. Since we started trying cases in the fall, the majority have resulted in acquittals, Ms. Gibson explained. “But then, in the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing guilty verdicts more often. There is no apparent difference between the evidence presented in the trespass trials that lead to guilt versus the ones that lead to acquittals.

“To handle this inconsistency, we elected in this case to test some of the legal issues at play. Rather than have a full trial with evidence and testimony, the Assistant District Attorney and I sat down and hashed out a few pages of “stipulated” facts to present to the Judge. Based on these facts, the Judge delivered a guilty verdict. He declined to give any guidance as to how he came to this decision.

Read More: We Are Seneca Lake Press Release – Sujata Gibson’s Remarks on Harry Davis Trial Strategy

“The primary reason we decided to go to trial on stipulated facts, rather than a regular trial, is we believe there are fundamental errors in how the law on trespass is being applied here, and we hope the appellate process will be much faster given this stipulated record so that legal questions in dispute can be applied to some of the hundreds of other related cases. This way, the appellate court has a clear record of the facts, and we don’t have to buy a $1,900 transcript or wait several months for a record to be transcribed. We can just go straight to the appellate court and say, “Here are the facts, here are our legal questions; please give us some guidance.” Rather than continue weekly trials as scheduled, we’d like to pause the trials while we await this ruling on appeal, so that more innocent people are not found guilty, and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars are not wasted.”

Follow The Banner for court information confirmation or rescheduling. Or for up to the minute status,  contact Michael Dineen mdineen39@gmail.com.

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How Can Activists Best Engage With Rural and Working-Class Americans? Three Views

A short symposium of opinions on why progressives have failed to connect with white rural Americans. It is a perplexity many activists consider carefully.

1. The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America

In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

Forcetti. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Shane Trotter

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete [expletive deleted]. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to throw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t east coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is rural America doesn’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of choices they’ve made and horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

…What I understand is that rural, Christian, white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural, Christian, white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies. I understand they feel left behind by a world they don’t understand and don’t really care to. They are willing to vote against their own interest if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are truly only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.

The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural, Christian, white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural, Christian, white Americans….—Forsetti, “An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America,” Alternet, 11/22/16

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2. Why Do White Working-Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t.

Opponents of Senate Bill 5 celebrate in Columbus, Ohio, after the bill, restricting the collective-bargaining abilities of public-employee unions, was defeated on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. (AP Photo / Tony Dejak)

In 2011, Ohio voters repealed Senate Bill 5, an attack on collective-bargaining rights. Not only was the bill repealed by a wide margin, but it was repealed in 82 of the state’s 88 counties, with huge numbers of white working-class voters rejecting Governor John Kasich’s signature piece of legislation. The fight left Kasich the second most unpopular governor in the country. Yet just three years later, Kasich swept back to reelection with a 30-point victory—and talk of running for president. Since Trump’s election, my mind keeps going back to that fight over SB5—and our failure to gain any lasting advantage from it. We as progressives are not linking key phenomena together in a way that captures the anxiety that white working-class people in America increasingly have. And worse yet, we don’t have an economic agenda that addresses that anxiety.

Why do white working-class people vote against their interests? They don’t. Corporate Democrats have never advanced their interests—and at least Republicans offer a basic, if misleading, story about why they are getting screwed. When I first started organizing in Youngstown, Ohio, many people told me I must read Sean Safford’s Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown, which argues that Youngstown collapsed as a result of a lack of social networks. It is an absurd explanation for what happened to the city—but embraced by many thoughtful progressive leaders there. In fact, Youngstown has been left hobbled because progressives failed to secure economic power.

The first step was the collapse of the industrial heartland. This hit white working-class people incredibly hard—and it remains a phenomenon that is not understood on the East and West Coasts. It is painted as a natural evolution of our economy and as if the onus is on people to adapt to it. This fails to capture how many families and communities were dependent on the industrial economy. Many Ohioans are now staring at a future where they themselves and their kids have less opportunity than their parents. In a place like Youngstown, that means not only an inability to get a well-paying job at the steel mill; it also means owning a house that has failed to appreciate in value for 20 to 30 years, in a city that continues to lose double-digit percentages of its population every 10 years. It is not just a stripping out of economic opportunity but a stripping away of identity for these communities. It is the sense of abandonment and perpetual decline that people feel mired in. Resources, jobs, decent housing, quality neighborhoods and schools are all in decline. It creates a “scarcity mentality” for white working-class people and others who live in the heartland.

Two narratives emerged about the collapse of the industrial heartland in America. The one from the far right has three parts: First, that industry left this country because unions destroyed productivity and made labor costs too high, thereby making us uncompetitive. Second, corporations were the victims of over-regulation and a bloated government that overtaxed them to pay for socialist welfare systems. Third, illegal immigration has resulted in the stealing of American jobs, increased competition for white workers, and depressed wages. Together these three factors led to the collapse of manufacturing in America. This, sadly, is a story that many Americans believe. The second narrative, promoted by corporate Democrats, is that the global economy shifted and the country is now in transition from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy. This story tacitly accepts the economic restructuring of the heartland as inevitable once China and other markets opened up.

The most accurate narrative is one we never hear—and that I think is illustrated well in the collapse of Youngstown’s steel mills. When the corporations who operated the mills shut them down, the community organized en masse. Key religious and community leaders stood up against “the severe consequences when corporations decide not to modernize older facilities, view relocation of industry as a logical result of corporate opportunities for profit, or shift capital altogether to other investment opportunities.”

A coalition organized to reopen the mills as cooperatives owned by the workers, community members, and private investors. After a feasibility study showed that reopening the mills was economically viable, the coalition appealed to the federal government for loans to purchase and modernize the plant. Despite an initial commitment, the Carter administration backed off. Apparently, Jimmy Carter worried that supporting the project would jeopardize his reelection bid and bowed to lobbying by steel corporations who saw it as a threat, which was countered by only tepid support from the national Steelworkers Union leadership, who worried worker ownership might undermine the union.

The collapse of the industrial heartland resulted from a choice about whether we would reshape our economic models to serve workers and communities over profits—or continue to serve corporate interests that painted the global movement of capital as inevitable. The right blamed unions and regulation. The Democrats tried to explain the collapse as a weather phenomenon that we all needed to adjust to. Efforts to reshape the economy were marginalized and defeated by both parties; business and organized labor each supported the collapse of the city of Youngstown.

The impact of this betrayal on white working-class people was a universal distrust and dislike for institutions—none of which were able to defend their livelihoods or their futures. The unions didn’t stay around to organize a new strategy for revitalizing Youngstown. They moved to another line of defense elsewhere, as they grew increasingly insular and focused on protecting their shrinking base. One of the only people not to abandon white working-class people in Youngstown was the county sheriff, who became a hero because he refused to evict from their homes people who had lost their jobs in the collapse. His name was Jim Traficant and he later became a congressman. Even when he ran for office while in prison (for corruption and bribery convictions) decades later, he still won 25 percent of the vote. He was in personality and rhetoric a precursor to Donald Trump. Deindustrialization was a traumatic experience for white working-class people. Yet we act surprised when this constituency exhibits post-traumatic-stress disorder. And it is we who perpetrate the myth that they are voting “against their interests,” despite all the facts on the ground indicating that for them it makes no difference which party is in power. They have lived through 40 years of decline….— Kirk Noden, “Why Do White Working-Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t.The Nation, 11/17/16

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3. Strangers in Their Own Land Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Arlie Russell Hochschild talks about her book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. Filmed at the 28th annual Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee, October 16, 2016

Arlie Russell Hochschild is one of the most influential sociologists of her generation. She is the author of nine books, including The Second Shift, The Time Bind, The Managed Heart, The Outsourced Self, and Strangers in Their Own Land (The New Press). Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and her work appears in sixteen languages. The winner of the Ulysses Medal as well as Guggenheim and Mellon grants, she lives in Berkeley, California.

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground with the people she meets—among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident—people whose concerns are ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that many on the political right have been duped into voting against their interests. In the right-wing world she explores, Hochschild discovers powerful forces—fear of cultural eclipse, economic decline, perceived government betrayal—which override self-interest, as progressives see it, and help explain the emotional appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea?…—Book Review, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” The New Press, 8/1/16

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Force vs Non-violence

Water Song by the Akwesasne Women Singers

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The ‘Water Song’ by the Akwesasne Women Singers. The Music Video was produced by Raienkonnis Edwards and the Summer Film Fundamentals Program in Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Water is precious, we all need to show love for the water.—Akwesasne Women Singers, “Water Song by the Akwesasne Women Singers,” YouTube, 8/29/13

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Showdown at Standing Rock

Army Corps of Engineers Orders Dakota Pipeline Protesters to Abandon Camp

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Drone view of encampment and surroundings. CREDIT: “Water Protector”

Activists protesting the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down one of their camps by Dec. 5, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered in a letter sent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s leader.

Citing increased violence between protesters and law enforcement and the increasingly harsh winter conditions, the corps said it decided to close its land to the protesters who have been there since early April. This will shut down the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is one of the three camps located near the construction site.

“Today we were notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that on Dec. 5th, they will close all lands north of the Cannonball River, which is where the Oceti Sakowin camp is located,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement. “The letter states that the lands will be closed to public access for safety concerns, and that they will allow for a ‘free speech zone’ south of the Cannonball River on Army Corps lands.”

Colonel Henderson, district commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, wrote that he had implored the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II to tell members of his tribe to move from the property north of the Cannonball River.

Related: Army Corps of Engineers Says Pipeline Construction Can’t Continue Without Tribe Input

“I am asking you, as a Tribal leader, to encourage members of your Tribe, as well as any non-members who support you who are located in the encampments north of the Cannonball River on Corps’ lands to immediately and peacefully move to the free speech zone south of the Cannonball River or to a more sustainable location for the winter,” he wrote in the letter to the chairman.

The decision, Henderson wrote, was to protect the public from violent confrontations between law enforcement and protesters, who call themselves “water protectors,” as well as the “harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”

The letter was sent after a protester’s arm was severely injured by a concussion grenade that protesters contend was thrown by local law enforcement. The police also sprayed protesters with a fire hose in near-freezing conditions….—Phil McCausland, “Army Corps of Engineers Orders Dakota Pipeline Protesters to Abandon Camp,” NBC News, 11/25/!6

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December: Every Day Is a #NoDAPL Day of Action

On November 20th the police and National Guard violently attacked peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, sound grenades, and sprayed them with water cannons in subfreezing conditions, hundreds of people were injured. You can read more about the what happened here.

decemberdailyactionOn #NoBlackSnakeFriday, the Obama Administration issued an eviction notice to the Oceti Sakowin encampments at Standing Rock. The eviction notice came as a letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, informing them that on Dec. 5th, it will “close” all lands north of the Cannonball River, where the Oceti Sakowin encampment is located.

Solidarity Efforts are Needed Now More Than Ever

We call on all people of conscience, from all Nations, to join the encampments and stand with us by December 5 as we put our bodies in front of the machines.  

We call on allies across the world to take action EVERY DAY starting December 1.

Read More:

The financial footing of the Dakota Access Pipeline is in jeopardy if they do not complete the project by January 1st. If this deadline is missed, a majority of the stakeholders with contracts to ship oil through the pipeline will be able to renegotiate or cancel their contracts. This could be devastating to Energy Transfer Partners and the other pipeline companies behind DAPL.

We are calling for a month of solidarity beginning with a Global Day of Action on December 1st. We are asking people to target the banks funding Dakota Access Pipeline and the Sheriff Departments that have been brutalizing peaceful water protectors….—”December: Every Day Is a #NoDAPL Day of Action,”  Sacred Stone Camp – Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí, 11/28/16

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ND Governor Orders Immediate Evacuation of anti-Dakota Access Camps

I, Jack Dalrymple, Governor of the State of North Dakota, order a mandatory evacuation of all persons located in areas under the proprietary jurisdiction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers located in Morton County, and defined as a prohibited area in Exhibit A of the United States Army Corps of Engineers memorandum provided to the Morton County Sheriff on November 25th, 2016 and attached to this order. This definition of the evacuation area shall remain in effect even if the United States Army Corps of Engineers redefines or removes these prohibited areas. These persons are ordered to leave the evacuation area immediately, and are further ordered not to return to the evacuation area.

All persons in the evacuation area shall take all their possessions with them upon their evacuation. 

Any action or inaction taken by any party which encourages persons to enter, reenter, or remain in the evacuation area will be subject to penalties as defined in law. 

I direct state agencies, emergency service officials, and nongovernmental organizations to reduce threats to public safety by not guaranteeing the provision of emergency and other governmental and nongovernmental services in the evacuation area, unless otherwise approved on a case by case basis by the Morton County Sheriff or Superintendent of the Highway Patrol.  The general public is hereby notified that emergency services probably will not be available under current winter conditions.

Any person who chooses to enter, reenter, or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk, and assumes any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupation of the evacuation area.

This order is effective immediately, and it shall remain in effect until rescinded. Executed at Bismarck, North Dakota, this 28th day of November, 2016.—Gov. Jack Dalrymple, “ND Governor Orders Immediate Evacuation of anti-Dakota Access Camps,” State of North Dakota, 11/28/16

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Sheriffs Across US Refusing to Send Police and Equipment to DAPL as Outrage and Costs Grow

In response to an increasingly furious public outcry, sheriffs from around the country have refused to send personnel and equipment to assist the Morton County Sheriff’s Department in guarding construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A massive campaign of angry phone calls and indignant emails to departments planning to travel to North Dakota succeeded in persuading multiple sheriffs — elected officials — the brutal tactics used against peaceful Standing Rock Sioux and other water protectors have been a gross abuse of power.

That law enforcement have employed disproportionate force against water protectors is irrefutable; and while Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier might technically be tasked with ensuring Dakota Access can proceed where legally permitted, he is indisputably responsible for protecting people exercising their First Amendment rights.

Clearly, to the appalled constituents and people around the world voicing outrage against Morton County and other departments, officers have completely dismissed that protection — and, instead, acted as a rogue standing army, intentionally targeting medics, journalists, and water protectors with everything from rubber bullets and tear gas, to icy water and concussion grenades.

Sheriffs concerned about the heinous use of force — not to mention, re-election — have wisely reconsidered requests to join what has, in essence, become a war against Indigenous peoples interested only in preserving uncontaminated water for future generations.

According to Yes! Magazine’s Jenni Monet, those considerations coupled with vocal public objections caused Montana’s Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin to “literally turn his detail around” — after they departed for North Dakota.

“I got messages from England, Poland, New Zealand, Australia,” Gootkin said, according to Yes! Magazine. “I wanted to go and help my fellow law enforcement. I just don’t understand where we separated from the public. It really breaks my heart. We are not the enemy.”

Monet explains despite the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which mandates law enforcement nationwide to lend assistance during emergencies or disasters, Governor Steve Bullock had concerns the agreement was being misused. A flood of callers and emailers doubted EMAC should apply to the protection of a private Big Oil company’s pipeline, when it seemed more aptly suited for situations like natural disasters and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

On November 14, Gootkin explained his decision not to join the Morton County Sheriff’s Department in acting against the Standing Rock water protectors in a post to social media:

“Yesterday I had made a decision to send Deputies to the protest in North Dakota to help with that volatile situation. I have been in protest situations in my career and fully understand that in many cases law enforcement is placed in the middle of two emotional opposing interests and we have to attempt to balance our role as peace officer and law enforcement. Many of you emailed and called the Office to voice your concerns. As your Sheriff I was very humbled by the honest conversations we had. Although my actions were well intentioned you made it clear that you do not want your Sheriff’s Office involved in this conflict. One of the biggest differences of an elected Sheriff from other law enforcement leaders is that I am directly accountable to the people I serve (YOU) and although I am personally torn knowing that people (Including Montanans) are hurting over there, we will not be responding. Finally I am incredibly grateful that we live in a place where we can have differences and talk about them respectfully as adults without conflict. Thank you.”

Gootkin and the Gallatin County deputies never made it to North Dakota, but other departments briefly assisted the Morton County Sheriff, and then refused to complete planned rotations, pulled out, and never returned.

Wisconsin’s Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney and his personnel lasted one week policing water protectors before public excoriation forced him to back out of completing a planned three-week rotating deployment. That group of officers left for good and no further personnel were deployed, as Mahoney told the Bismarck Tribune,

“All share the opinion that our deputies should not be involved in this situation.”

Many of the agencies helping to guard pipeline construction have received been lambasted in a furious backlash, and, according to Monet, “the number of law enforcement agencies assisting Morton County has dwindled — in some instances, because of the pipeline’s polarizing effect.”

Minnesota’s Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and his deputies were praised for their actions clearing what became known as the “1851 Treaty Camp” on October 27. However, water protectors and independent journalists on the scene contend law enforcement brutalized water protectors, disrespectfully disassembled tipis, and refused to allow anyone to gather their belongings. Some claimed when they returned to the scene much later, officers had carelessly thrown tents, clothing, and other items in a pile, leaving all of it damaged and soaked in what seemed to be ammonia and urine.

“I do not have any control over the Sheriff’s actions, which I think were wrong,” Lt. Governor Tina Smith said in a statement cited by Yes! Magazine. “I believe he should bring his deputies home, if he hasn’t already. I strongly support the rights of all people to peacefully protest, including, tonight, the Standing Rock protest.”

Stanek felt differently and reiterated the nine-day deployment to North Dakota had been “the right thing to do” — but, apparently succumbing to contention, the sheriff said his personnel would not return.

In short, public pressure can be surprisingly effective.

And in that vein, the American Civil Liberties Union compiled the most complete list to date — using information provided officially and that from media reports — of law enforcement departments assisting the Morton County Sheriff and pipeline construction. Some have since returned from those deployments while others may still be present in North Dakota. According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department at the beginning of November, 24 counties, 16 cities, and nine states have contributed over 1,300 law enforcement personnel and equipment since August 10.

Links to news reports specifically naming departments have been included in the ACLU’s list here….—Claire Bernish, “Sheriffs Across US Refusing to Send Police and Equipment to DAPL as Outrage and Costs Grow,” DC Clothesline, 11/28/16

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Power Imbalance at the Pipeline Protest

Police used tear gas on demonstrators opposed to the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota, on Sunday. Credit Stephanie Keith/Reuters

When injustice aligns with cruelty, and heavy weaponry is involved, the results can be shameful and bloody. Witness what happened on Sunday in North Dakota, when law enforcement officers escalated their tactics against unarmed American Indians and allies who have waged months of protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

They drenched protesters with water cannons on a frigid night, with temperatures in the 20s. According to protesters and news accounts, the officers also fired rubber bullets, pepper spray, percussion grenades and tear gas. More than 160 people were reportedly injured, with one protester’s arm damaged so badly she might lose it.

The confrontation happened at Backwater Bridge, on a highway linking the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and Bismarck, N.D. Burned-out trucks and a police barricade have made the bridge impassable. Protesters say this is a needless threat to public safety — forcing emergency vehicles to detour about 20 miles — as well as a spiteful attempt to keep them away from the pipeline construction site. The violence erupted after some of the protesters tried to remove the truck carcasses on Sunday.

“We’re just not going to let people or protesters in large groups come in and threaten officers, that’s not happening,” said the Morton County sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier. The Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page linked to a video of the armed and armored officers, the water cannon drenching the crowd, and a rock flying overhead.

The pipeline, all but built, is meant to ship crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Built almost entirely on private property, the pipeline crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, passing less than a mile from the tribal reservation. Tribe members fear contamination of their drinking water and damage to sacred sites. They are trying to persuade the federal government to deny permits allowing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River near their reservation.

The department’s video was meant to portray the protesters as dangerous troublemakers, but the photos and videos in news reports suggest a more familiar story — an imbalance of power, where law enforcement fiercely defends property rights against protesters’ claims of environmental protection and the rights of indigenous people. American Indians have seen this sort of drama unfold for centuries — native demands meeting brute force against a backdrop of folly — in this case, the pursuit of fossil fuels at a time of sagging oil demand and global climatic peril….—Editorial Board, “Power Imbalance at the Pipeline Protest,” The New York Times, 11/23/16

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Hundreds of Veterans to Join Water Protectors at Standing Rock to Protest Dakota Access Pipeline

Hundreds of veterans are preparing to join the Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota early next month to peacefully protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

A Facebook page for the event, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, has more than 600 confirmed reservations with more than 4,500 other people expressing interest.

High-profile veterans including U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and retired Baltimore police officer/whistleblower Michael A. Wood, Jr. plan to attend.

“This country is repressing our people,” Wood Jr. told Task & Purpose. “If we’re going to be heroes, if we’re really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we’re going to do when we took the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.”

The “operations order” states:

“In response to the assertion of treaty rights, citizen rights, tribal rights and protection of the most valuable of resources, water, the Sioux tribes and allied comrades, are under sustained assault by agents of and working for private interests under the color of law. First Americans have served in the United States Military, defending the soil of our homelands, at a greater percentage than any other group of Americans. There is no other people more deserving of veteran support and this situation encapsulates whether we are called heroes for violence and cashing paychecks or for justice and morality.”

They say their mission is to “prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes regarding the United States lack of treaty enforcement.”

A GoFundMe crowd-sourcing campaign, created by event organizer and army veteran Wesley Clark Jr., is currently raising funds for the three-day effort. The description states:

“We are veterans of the United States Armed Forces, including the U.S. Army, United States Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard and we are calling for our fellow veterans to assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Dec 4-7 and defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security.”

So far, more than $75,000 has been raised toward the $200,000 goal in 11 days. The money raised is “strictly” going towards “transportation and bail money,” Clark Jr. tweeted.

“Everyday becomes more evident that the defenders of America must stand with the Water Protectors,” Clark Jr. wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Let’s stop this savage injustice being committed right here at home. If not us, who? If not now, when?”… —Lorraine Chow, “Hundreds of Veterans to Join Water Protectors at Standing Rock to Protest Dakota Access Pipeline, ” EcoWatch, 11/23/16

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Who’s Investing in the Dakota Access Pipeline? Meet the Banks Financing Attacks on Protesters

daplbanksWe continue our conversation with Hugh MacMillan on his new investigation revealing the financial institutions backing the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline project.

The investigation, published by research outlet LittleSis, names more than two dozen major banks and financial institutions helping to finance the Dakota Access pipeline. It details how Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and other financial institutions have, combined, extended a $3.75 billion credit line to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access.

This is Part 2 of our conversation with Hugh MacMillan, a senior researcher with Food & Water Watch. Click here to see Part 1.…—Hugh MacMillan, “Who’s Investing in the Dakota Access Pipeline? Meet the Banks Financing Attacks on Protesters,” Democracy Now!, 9/6/16

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Standing with Standing Rock Oneonta, NY

standingwithstandingrockonteona

Sue Donegan interviewed after “Standing with Standin Rock, Oneonta” at the Bohemian Moon restaurant in Norwich, NY

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How Indigenous Activists in Norway Got the First Bank to Pull Out of the Dakota Access Pipeline

Sámi artist Sara Marielle Guap Baeska holds the Sámi flag with other Sámi activists and Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault. (Photo: Jeff Schad Imagery)

On November 8, 2016, Beaska Niillas, chairman of the Norwegian Sámi Association (NSA) walked into a conference room in Oslo, Norway, with his wife, Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska, who had spent time in Standing Rock. Both are members of the Sámi Parliament and Beaska is a member of the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature. Niillas and Beaska flew over 1,000 miles from their home in Finmark, the homelands of the Indigenous Sámi people and the most northern province of Norway located above the Artic circle.

Niillas set up a meeting with executives at DNB, Norway’s largest bank, to demand that they withdraw their investment in the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

“It is natural that we would try to help Standing Rock. It is easy for Indigenous people around the world to recognize the struggle. We see what they are going through and we feel it. There is no them, only us,” Niillas said in a Skype interview with Truthout.

In his hands was a 20-page report documenting the human rights abuses that members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies have experienced at the hands of the state of North Dakota and Dakota Access LLC’s private security firm. Thousands have gathered to assist the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in protecting the area from the construction of the $3.7 billion project that would transport crude oil from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a refinery to near Chicago.

The story of how the Sámi received that report illustrates how international networks of Indigenous people are challenging the power structure behind the oppression of Indigenous people all around the world, Niillas said.

DNB, a direct investor and loan provider to the Dakota Access pipeline, loaned $120 million to the Bakken pipeline project and extended $460 million in credit lines to companies with ownership stakes, specifically Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics, Phillips 66 and Marathon.

“I went to that meeting knowing that to succeed, we needed independent documentation of the human rights abuses,” Niillas said. “We needed something to convince the bank that the abuses weren’t just found on social media. Five hours before the meeting, I had the report I needed in my hands.”

That report came to Niillas unexpectedly from law school graduate Michelle Cook, who had worked at the Standing Rock camp to develop a legal infrastructure to support the tribe and its allies.

“There [were] four people, big shots in a big company,” Niillas said. “None of us knew what to expect. They seemed confident at the start and then uncomfortable as we started talking about what was happening at Standing Rock. By the end, I could see they realized the severity of the situation that they were in.”…—Alexis Bonogofsky, “How Indigenous Activists in Norway Got the First Bank to Pull Out of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Truthout, 11/28/16

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At Standing Rock and Beyond, What Is to Be Done?

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Near Cannon Ball, N.D. — “We love you!” yelled someone from our line, linked arm in arm.

We were facing Dakota Access Pipeline workers threatening us with baseball bats and wrenches, one of whom had only moments ago sped his large truck through our ranks. They had called us “the scum of the earth,” and replied to our assurance that we were nonviolent by warning, “We’re not.” A helicopter had appeared and begun circling low over our heads. And from this scene, one of the men who had not yet spoken sheepishly replied, “We love you, too.

We eventually parted ways, not in peace but at least not in physical violence. We had distracted them from further construction of the project that threatened to spill oil in the Lakota water supply and headed back to our cars to take part in a march through the streets of Bismarck, N.D. But amid all the movement, that moment stayed with me.

I had come with a group of Catholic Workers for reasons anyone studying or teaching theology as I do might find obvious. The violation of basic dignity happening here defies the consistent refrain by the prophets and Jesus to do justice with an eye toward the exploited. We had been told white bodies could help by surrounding native ones, shielding them while they sought to protect their water.

The anxiety about immigrants’ diluting “American culture” that helped usher Donald J. Trump to victory has caused many Americans to forget that “American culture” itself began as an intrusion from foreign lands; Lakota people at Standing Rock also have a historically well-established reason to fear this culture. The Lakota are reminding those who will listen that this land’s original immigration problem was of European origin and it continues to threaten their lives and livelihood after half a millennium of a genocidal onslaught. Its most recent manifestation is this pipeline.

I have meditated on that profession of love several days ago from a grown man wielding a bat to threaten us. It called to mind a conversation with my theology students at Fordham about Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,” in which he argues that “all machines have their friction,” but that “when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.” He had in mind the evils of slavery and the American government’s theft of half of Mexico in the Mexican-American War, but it spoke fittingly to this older form of oppression and robbery the Lakota people still suffer, in which even those who love them will still oppose them with a weapon and disrupt their sacred grounds.

After our class argued over how we might know when these frictions came to possess the machinery of government, one student declared emphatically that if we could not already recognize that the friction had taken over, then we would never see it.

It was hard to disagree, especially the day after our encounter with the pipeline workers when the police pepper sprayed a Lakota prayer service and those of us surrounding it, arresting whom they could. What kind of machine produces violence to meet prayer, and prison in return for demanding resources to simply live? What kind of machine responds to those trying to protect their water by spraying them in subfreezing temperatures with water? Is it a machine overtaken with friction, or is the nexus of power between corporations and government that is trying to trample over the Lakota once again simply an unfortunate byproduct of an otherwise benevolent and worthy machine? How much oppression and theft is tolerable in order to keep the machine running? Where is our breaking point, at which we say that the benefits do not outweigh the human cost?

Thoreau’s claim was that citizens needed to become a “counter-friction” against injustice, that all people had a duty to disobey immoral laws and orders. The idea directly influenced Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who added their own positive notions to resistance….—Eric Martin, “At Standing Rock and Beyond, What Is to Be Done?The New York Times, 11/25/16

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Bloomberg Says Cities Will Fight Climate Change, With or Without Trump

Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Donald J. Trump has said climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese to get the United States to suppress its manufacturing sector. That prompted a public rebuttal last week from a Chinese official attending a climate summit meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump appeared to back away from the strict climate-denier viewpoint embraced by many Republicans in an interview with The New York Times, saying that there was “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change. He also said he wanted to keep an “open mind” about whether to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, the main global climate change accord.

Mr. Trump’s opacity means it is unclear whether he will actually support policies to limit the effects of climate change after being sworn in as president in January. But officials from China, which has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas, have said they will move forward on climate policies without the Americans, if it comes to that.

On Tuesday, Michael R. Bloomberg, the media tycoon and former mayor of New York City, said that American cities would continue to enact climate policies no matter what Mr. Trump and the federal government decided to do.

Mr. Bloomberg made his remarks in Washington at a talk hosted by the China General Chamber of Commerce. They were adapted for an op-ed article published Tuesday by Bloomberg View under the headline, “Washington Won’t Have Last Word on Climate Change.”

Mr. Bloomberg, a longtime advocate for action on climate change, praised Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, for saying China remained committed to tackling the issue. “That’s a responsible thing to do for the Chinese people and the world,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg added that if Mr. Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, then he would urge the mayors of 128 cities in the United States who see the need to fight climate change to join the agreement.

Following is a central passage from Mr. Bloomberg’s op-ed article:

“I can’t tell you what Donald Trump’s administration will do — and in all fairness, they will need time to figure it out themselves. What’s said on the campaign trail is one thing; actually carrying out a specific policy is another. I hope they’ll recognize the importance of the issue. But I am confident that no matter what happens in Washington, no matter what regulations the next administration adopts or rescinds, no matter what laws the next Congress may pass, we will meet the pledges that the U.S. made in Paris.

“The reason is simple: Cities, businesses and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded — just as China has — that doing so is in their own self-interest.

“The U.S.’s success in fighting climate change has never been primarily dependent on Washington. Bear in mind: Over the past decade, Congress has not passed a single bill that takes direct aim at climate change. Yet at the same time, the U.S. has led the world in reducing emissions….—Edward Wong, “Bloomberg Says Cities Will Fight Climate Change, With or Without Trump,” The New York Times, 11/23/16

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to all who sent news and story ideas this week. It was a jam-packed week to cover in one itty-bitty newsletter. But lotsa important news. Please keep the stories, news, your writings, coming! Send, along with cranberry sauce (home-made, please!) to banner@wearesenecalake.com