Resistance at Standing Rock Forces Gov't to Back Down for Now... The Struggle Continues
Updated December 7, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Water protectors gather to hear the announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers, December 4. Photo: revcom.us
The past 24 hours have seen dramatic developments in the battle to stop the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL) from endangering the water and violating the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux.
On Sunday, December 4, the day before the federal and state authorities were threatening to evict water protectors from the Oceti Sakowin camp near the Standing Rock reservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced: “The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.” Lake Oahe is a Corps of Engineers reservoir on the Missouri River, and that decision effectively blocks, for now, the completion of the pipeline on its current route.
The implications of this decision need to be further understood. And there are undoubtedly battles to come. But one thing is for sure: The U.S. government would not have backed off on approving the final completion of the DAPL had it not been for the heroic and inspiring resistance at Standing Rock.
Defying Eviction Threats
For months, thousands of Native American Indians and their supporters have been defending the water and resisting the pipeline. Hundreds have been arrested. Hundreds more have been subjected to beatings, mace, rubber bullets and unending harassment and insult by police, the National Guard, and oil pipeline company mercenaries. But they have refused to back down. Images of militarized police blasting protesters with high-pressure water hoses in sub-zero weather on the night of November 20, outraged millions.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which has jurisdiction over the land on which people are camped) and North Dakota authorities used the onset of a brutal North Dakota winter, and the pretense of “concern for the safety” of the very protesters they have repeatedly brutalized and arrested, to announce they would evict the water protectors on December 5.
People from all walks of life and coming from many different views have come to Standing Rock. And they have refused to leave (see “Voices From Standing Rock—Standing Firm in the Face of Threats”). Hundreds of Native tribes are represented at Standing Rock. Churches have sent delegations. Artists, construction workers, and engineers have joined the camp. The largest organization of nurses in the U.S. has sent contingents of nurses and other medical workers. The Revolution Clubs went out to the South Side of Chicago and to communities in Los Angeles to tell people about what is going on and why people should stand with Standing Rock. And Revolution Clubs from several cities sent delegations to connect the resistance with organizing for an actual revolution at the soonest possible time.
The organization Veterans Stand for Standing Rock mobilized thousands of veterans to come to act as human shields, protecting the encampment (see “A Letter to All of the Veterans Standing for Standing Rock, from Carl Dix ” at revcom.us). A million dollars has been raised through social media to fund the protest. And the camp multiplied in size as the eviction date approached. In many ways, the whole world was watching.
The Corps of Engineers Statement
With all this coming to a head, the Army Corp of Engineers released their statement today, December 4. It includes the following:
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do.” And, “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
And the Corps of Engineers statement said, “Consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.”
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also released a statement that said, “The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts…”
“There is not a mood of ‘this is over’”
The U.S. government has a 400-year record of refusing to respect the land of Native peoples and violating treaties. What the statement from the Corps of Engineers means, short term and long term, will be in large part defined by how strong the struggle stays and grows. People need to be vigilant.
For now, local and federal authorities have dialed down the most extreme threats to evict the Oceti Sakowin camp. But ongoing harassment of the water protectors continues. When a couple hundred of the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock went to a bridge on Highway 1806, where authorities viciously attacked water protectors on November 20, they were met with reinforced violent forces of repression from the other side.
As we post this late Sunday night, a long line of cars continues to head into camp, filled with people determined to stand with the water defenders. Late Sunday night, Carl Dix, a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party who is at Standing Rock, said to Revolution, “There is not a mood of ‘this is over.’”
High Stakes in Perilous Times
As we’ve been writing, in relation to Standing Rock, “The truth is this: America Was Never Great! Only a revolution—a genuine communist revolution that aims to institute the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America as its framework—can end the oppression suffered by the Native peoples, as well as other oppressed nationalities, and can end the insane plunder of the environment by the capitalists. Battles like the one in Standing Rock can be and must increasingly be built as part of strengthening the movement to make that revolution. And in the shadow of the looming fascism of Trump, the struggle for the basic justice of the demands of the water protectors in Standing Rock takes on even greater significance.”
The eyes of the whole world will continue to be watching in the next days, and months, to see what the people of this country are going to do. The U.S. government has broken every treaty it has ever made, and the only promise they ever kept was that they promised to take the land of the Native peoples and they took it. At the same time, the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to back off for now, and everything that led up to that, DOES show the potential strength of the masses of people. And it reveals as well the vulnerability of the system to both determined struggle and to the costs this was incurring to their national AND international legitimacy.
The risks, and stakes, remain high.
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