Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, indigenous-led resistance to pipelines continued all across Turtle Island.
In Texas, an Indigenous water protector and an Alpine resident locked themselves to pipe-laying equipment of the Trans-Pecos pipeline, another Energy Transfer Partners project (owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline). The Two Rivers Camp and Society of Native Nations have set up camps to prevent the project from carrying fracked gas from Texas into Mexico.
In Florida, several hundred protesters occupied a construction road near the Suwannee River to protest the Sabal Trail Pipeline on Sunday. The next day, eight were arrested as two water protectors locked to a truck carrying equipment to the site where workers are currently drilling under the Suwannee River. This 515-mile natural gas pipeline project is being constructed from Alabama to Georgia to Florida, and threatens the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world.
In Tennessee, seven water protectors locked their arms to barrels of cement, blockading the entrance to the Memphis Valero refinery, the endpoint of the proposed Diamond Pipeline. The 440 mile pipeline is under construction from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Memphis, Tennessee, and plans to cross more than 500 waterways, including five major watersheds.
At Standing Rock, local law enforcement and the National Guard attacked unarmed water protectors in freezing temperatures. Hundreds of water protectors led a prayer walk to the razor wire barricade approximately 700 feet from the drill pad where the Dakota Access Pipeline is proposed to cross the Missouri river. Law enforcement fired tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber coated steel bullets at point blank range, hitting one person directly in the eye. A total of 14 water protectors were arrested, and some were held in cold dog kennels overnight.
Repression of water protectors intensifies at a statewide level as North Dakota GOP lawmakers introduce bills which would restrict the use of face masks, allow the federal government to be sued to cover law enforcement costs, and protect drivers from liability if they injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway.
Police also deployed an AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile launcher to overlook the Standing Rock encampments. This military grade vehicle is built for “surface-to-air defense scenarios” and received widespread public exposure when it was placed around the Pentagon during the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks of 2001.
Ladonna Allard of Sacred Stone Camp says, “In Standing Rock, we came together to honor Martin Luther King, a man who stood up for injustice, and we were attacked. We came to stand in prayer, and we were attacked. Please pray for the water protectors.”
Tara Houska of Honor the Earth says, “As America honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man synonymous with fighting all manner of injustice, the atrocities in North Dakota continue. Unarmed citizens exercising their right to free speech are hit with tear gas and rubber bullets for opposing a fossil fuel pipeline. The people’s revolution continues - this is our planet and our children's futures at stake.”
Eryn Wise of the International Indigenous Youth Council says “In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence...and that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that...we are determined to be people. We are saying that we don't have to live like we are forced to live.’ As protectors we have risen against all odds, to protect the water and the future of our children. Though we may be wounded and weary, we stand because we cannot look at the future of America, in the light our nation’s impending administration, and see anyone else that will stand for indigenous peoples and our rights.”