A group of fifty Ohioans braved the rush hour traffic and car exhaust to take a stand against the Dakota Access pipeline recently. They stood on a busy highway in front of an Ohio State Highway Patrol office, carrying signs indicating their displeasure with Governor John Kasich (former Republican presidential candidate) and his decision to send 37 Ohio state troopers to North Dakota to intimidate the peaceful water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protect a privately-owned oil company pipeline.
The Ohio protestors didn’t know how their message would be received by the general public, but they stood up boldly for the civil rights of their fellow Americans. They were rewarded with honks of agreement and thumbs up. Reporters taped interviews and snapped photos and the local troopers were polite and accommodating.
Two days later, a crowd of eighty turned out on a sunny autumn afternoon in the small college town of Bowling Green, Ohio, to send prayers and well-wishes to the people of Standing Rock. Native Americans, college professors, environmentalists, students, an environmental lawyer, and a city council member shared their thoughts about what is happening there and how the public can help the water protectors. They shared insights, history, science, and legal information that the public can act upon to close down the 1,168-mile-long Dakota Access pipeline and others like it, such as Ohio’s Nexus pipeline (planned to cross under the Maumee River), once and for all.
Five days after the peace gathering, about forty DAPL protestors met in downtown Toledo in front of the city government building. They held signs, chanted “Water is life!” and talked with passers-by, including a couple of police officers. The officers wanted to know what was going on at Standing Rock. They thought President Obama had stopped the pipeline, since that’s all they’ve heard on the mainstream news channels. (The pipeline building continues in spite of Army Corp of Engineers statement that it should be halted and an environmental impact survey done.) The officers said they didn’t realize the pipeline is to go under the Missouri River and threaten the water supply of millions if it should leak.
The irony of this situation is that the original route of the pipeline was to go north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, but the residents of North Dakota’s capital city, Bismarck–almost 90% white–didn’t want it routed their way. It was seen as “unsafe.” Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline builders, chose an alternate route near the reservation and away from Bismarck, putting their Native-American neighbors’ water supply at risk, instead, as well as putting at risk the water supply downstream for 18 million others. North Dakota alone has experienced 273 uncontained oil spills and 908 contained spills as of mid-October, demonstrating the water protectors’ very real fear of contamination of the Missouri River by a possible pipeline accident.
More than 250 tribes have traveled to the camps at Standing Rock to support the Sioux nation. Independent journalists, UN monitors and the ACLU have also traveled there to observe and note the use of pepper spray, water cannons, rubber bullets, and attack dogs against the peaceful water protectors. Several photos were taken of Ohio State Troopers using military-sized canisters of pepper spray against protectors praying along a sacred creek bank in order to protect the privately-owned pipeline.
November 15 was a National Day of Protest in Solidarity with Standing Rock. More than 200 protests, parades and fundraising events were held worldwide. Donations of camping equipment, food, hygiene products, and clothing are currently being accepted for the water protectors’ camps. Winter is coming and the supplies are needed. More information on how to help can be found at www.standwithstandingrock.net and https://nodaplsolidarity.org/support-the-camps/
The political revolution is in its early days, but now isn’t the time to hesitate. Now is the time to make signs, to march in solidarity and share vital information about the dangers of oil pipeline leaks and the fracking industry with others. Now is the time to win hearts and souls, to remind our fellow citizens to stay awake and remain vigilant of our government spending our tax dollars to protect the profits of oil barons.
To quote Jill Stein: “It’s in our hands.” To paraphrase Bernie Sanders: Let’s make it a future all of us can believe in. To quote the water protectors: “Mni wiconi–water is life!”
Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of Our Revolution Continues blog: http://bernie2016.blogspot.com