The draconian way the water protectors are being treated by law enforcement, however, has been drawing my attention to that standoff more and more. I think that's the case with many people; the aggressive, life-threatening means which are being employed to deter these demonstrators in order to protect some corporation from having to spend a few more dollars in further litigation has drawn a ton of attention to a cause that wouldn't have otherwise had it.
It's like if listening to Bangladeshi folk music suddenly became extremely illegal. It's not something it would normally occur to me to do, it's not something I'd normally think much about, but if police suddenly started swarming in on everyone who was caught listening to Bangladeshi folk music and beating them to a pulp, all of a sudden I'm going to say "Hey! Why are they attacking people for listening to Bangladeshi folk music? We should be allowed to do that!"
So now I've got my eyes on this DAPL thing, and it keeps getting more surreal by the minute.
A Colonel from the Army Corps of Engineers wrote a letter to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on Friday informing them that one of their protest encampments will be shut down and its inhabitants will have permission to relocate to a "free speech zone" further south and out of the way.
The Army Corps' reason for moving the protesters? According to Colonel John W. Henderson, it's "to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area," which to me sounds an awful lot like someone saying "I need you to give me your wallet to protect you from being stabbed by my friend here."
Give the armed goons everything they want, and no harm will come to you. Don't interfere with the corporate investments they're protecting, and you won't be assaulted. Great. Thanks guys.
You know what would be a much more effective way to protect protesters from being assaulted by law enforcement officials? Protecting protesters from being assaulted by law enforcement officials. I mean, I'm no expert on this sort of thing, but aren't law enforcement officials comprised primarily of sentient human beings, presumably capable of controlling their behavior to the same extent as everyone else?
Henderson is talking about them like they're hornets or crocodiles or something. He reminds me of a lifeguard at the beach telling everyone to get out of the water because of a shark warning. "They'll hurt you if you go near them. There's nothing we can really do about that, it's just what wild animals do."
The other reason offered for relocating the protesters is to protect them from "death,illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions." You mean like hypothermia due to being drenched with water cannons in freezing temperatures, Colonel Henderson?
Again, he's talking about the risks these protesters face as though they're something nobody can do anything about. The primary risk they face is, and always has been, assault by law enforcement and mercenary security forces. It's absolutely bizarre to see a grown professional adult pretending that this is not the case.
And now the Army Corps is presumably going to be adding more of those exact risks, because what happens when this encampment disobeys Colonel Henderson's orders, as they say they will? What's the plan then, Colonel Henderson? More freezing water and rubber bullets? More attack dogs and pepper spray? Or are you going to crank things up even higher since that clearly isn't working? How brutal are you corporate goons prepared to let this thing get?
Because remember, the only reason so many of us are looking at you right now is specifically because of this brutality. The fact that employees of the American taxpayer are choosing to risk the lives of American citizens with extremely brutal tactics rather than ask a corporation to do some more litigating and/or provide a full environmental impact report (as Keystone XL did) is really shocking a lot of people.
This protest has now gone full Selma, and the attention's only going to grow.
We're right at the point now where government officials are going to have to decide whether to stand down, or get more brutal. It’s a sickening thought.
And I'd like to remind you all once again that President Obama could stop this all with a phone call.
Article by Caitlin Johnstone first featured on Newslogue.com (@caitoz)
Caitlin Johnstone is a journalist, author, feminist thinker, cage rattler, giant woman, and mother of two. Thank you for joining her on her adventure.