“We’re making a statement that our ancestors fought so that we shall remain. It’s up to us to do the same for our future generations,” said Julie Richards of South Dakota.
Richards made these comments while being chained to a piece of equipment needed for the construction of the pipeline. Using handcuffs or chains to tie a protestor to a piece of equipment is a well-known Direct Action strategy, and is considered to be effective and nonviolent.
Richards wrote Warrior Woman on her handcuffs and spent her time in chains to talk to the media about the issues Native
Women face. Protesters maintain that the construction of this pipeline will not only hurt the country as a whole but also will specifically hurt Native American women.
Richards continued, “We’re going to protect our water and we’re going to protect our native women from these man camps, the drugs, the sex trafficking.”
Richards believes that the construction of the pipeline is not only destructive to the environment, but also to the communities that it will run through. While building the pipeline will create jobs, the majority of these jobs will be temporary positions. Most of these positions will be filled by non-locals, and for Richards, that means an influx of predatory males who will be out ‘looking for a good time’ at the end of the work day. She believes this means a wave of drugs and sexual misconduct could come through her community, along with the pipeline.
While Richards belief may seem irrational to some, it’s certainly not an irrational idea to Brad Firth. Brad “Caribou Legs” Firth is currently running almost 4,000 miles across Canada to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women. Firth claims that there are numerous accounts of Native women being murdered or abducted, without full investigations being done by the police. He claims there are more unsolved murders involving Native women than white women. Running a marathon is Firth’s own creative way of engaging in Direct Action.
At least 6 construction sites at the Dakota Pipeline have been shut down as a result of Direct Action taken by protestors.
“I wish we could do more,” said Jarid Kopaney, who was attending the protest.
So far, the Water Protectors at the Dakota Pipeline are successfully engaging in Direct Action. They are following in the footsteps of many historical figures and movements.
Direct Action as a political theory goes far beyond spray painting #NoDAPL on street signs and bus stops. For the Water Protectors currently protesting at the Dakota pipeline, Direct Action means using any means necessary to permanently halt construction. While a few people have been arrested and charged with petty vandalism, there are more and more protestors being charged with serious crimes, such as spray painting construction equipment at the protest site, criminal trespassing, and intimidating pipeline workers.
Examples of successful Direct Action protests include Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, Gandhi and India’s struggle for Independence from Britain, and the Suffragettes securing the right of women to vote.
Unfortunately, the opposition to the protestors had not asserted a nonviolent stance. In fact, private security guards and the National Guard have been called in. It’s up to us to keep the media spotlight on this protest and hold those who engage in violence accountable for their actions.
A popular saying amongst Direct Action circles is, “Direct Action gets the goods!” Will it get the goods this time?
(Article by Jafari Tishomingo)
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