By the time you read this, there will undoubtedly be new developments in the situation surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline and the water protectors camped at Standing Rock. On November 28, the camp had received evacuation orders from North Dakota Governor John Dalrymple, although both he and the Army Corps of Engineers say no forcible removals are planned.
Water protectors, meanwhile, are filing a class action lawsuit over excessive force used by police, who are accused by some of functioning as little more than mercenaries on behalf of pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, in which president-elect Donald Trump owned stock as recently as last May. Some police departments have declined to send personnel to the camp.
Mainstream media has finally begun to cover the conflict, ongoing since last spring, in the wake of a serious injury to protector Sophia Wilansky. Wilansky, who grew up in the Bronx, sustained extensive damage to her arm after an explosion at the protests in mid-November.
Law enforcement and water protectors have conflicting accounts of how the injury took place, but one thing is certain: it is merely the highest-profile incident among hundreds involving rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons, and an observer might be forgiven for thinking that Dalrymple’s talk of safety concerns rings a bit hollow in context.
Senator Bernie Sanders is one of many voices advocating that President Barack Obama should declare the Standing Rock site a national monument. Meanwhile, thousands of US military veterans are gearing up to join the peaceful protest as unarmed human shields on December 3. US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (who represents Hawaii’s second congressional district) will be among them, joining a string of notables from actresses Shailene Woodley to Jane Fonda.
Retired Rosendale Town Justice Robert N. Vosper and his partner, Jo Shuman, are headed to North Dakota during the first weekend of the month. The two will travel by pickup truck, packed with supplies collected for the water protectors at the People’s Cauldron Apothecary on Rosendale’s Main Street. This is Vosper’s second trip out.
“It was a big awakening to see the camp and then learn about the treaties, about Wounded Knee,” says Vosper. “What it boils down to is this: I have grandchildren and more on the way. I want to do everything I can to make them safe and leave them a decent planet.”
The latest word from the water protectors’ camp suggests that all are welcome—but only if they are prepared to look after themselves in the harsh North Dakota weather. The camp is covered in snow already; organizers warn that no one should go there unless fully capable of sustaining their own food, shelter and basics, and that newcomers need to remember the serious and prayerful quality of the action.
“Don’t go there expecting to be an important person,” Vosper says. “I shredded beets for four hours. I did dishes. Jo is a nurse; she’ll be busy. Go there, see what jobs are on the board—everything from direct action to cleanup—pick one and introduce yourself to the person standing next to you.”
There will be a demonstration in solidarity with the water protectors of Standing Rock at the Wells Fargo bank in New Paltz on Saturday, December 3 at 10am. The People’s Cauldron, located at 430 Main Street in Rosendale, will continue to accept donations and supplies.