A horse called Injustice

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There has rarely been a bigger display of intertribal solidarity than what we are now seeing in the protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. It is an important fight for the Sioux people and one that has seen tribes from all over the Americas come together. It also includes non-Native people who are concerned and opening their hearts to embrace a cause that affects more than an Aboriginal concern.

Nation writer Dan Isaac and I visited the area October 7-11. Upon arriving, we were given the opportunity to ride a horse I fancifully named Injustice. I would have liked to ride that hellacious creature to the ground leaving it heaving and steaming in the chill of a coming winter.

Admittedly, it’s wishful thinking. Injustice’s prettier sister Justice is running free across the North Dakota plains. But it looks like Injustice is galloping ahead – if the repression of peaceful assemblies and prayer gatherings and mass arrests of peaceful protesters is a gauge of this race.

The ramping up of charges against the water protectors (as they call themselves) at Standing Rock is nothing less than intimidation. At first, charges involved simple trespass, but now people are being charged with inciting a riot. To say that of people who committed no property damage, injured no one and were trained to be non-violent seems to be not in keeping with what we all understand a riot to be. To see a peaceful elderly woman charged with this crime was wrong.

We saw renowned Democracy Now journalist Amy Goodman charged with rioting by the State of North Dakota, which claimed her journalism was invalid because it didn’t report the story they wanted. That is injustice. It goes against the principles of free speech and freedom of expression. There is a danger in allowing the state to decide who is a journalist and what they can write. It goes against the entire concept of a democratic society. While the charges were recently dropped, other journalists have faced similar charges and had their equipment seized.

An Iowa farmer, Cyndy Coppola, was arrested on her own property after attempting to block trucks accessing her land. She said Dakota Access gained rights to be on her property against her and her family’s will by using Eminent Domain to get easements to the property.

“We are holding the line against the DAPL and its sordid attempt to put our communities and water at risk of contamination,” said Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director Tom B.K. Goldtooth, who is a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award. “With this duty in mind, it is deplorable that not only must we fear physical harm by the excessive use of force and inflated actions of law enforcement, we now face persecution for enacting our First Amendment rights to document the destruction of our sacred sites, record police arrests, and hold oil corporations accountable for their actions. We demand an apology for the clear disregard of those rights.”

While there I saw police officers and county sheriffs refuse to identify themselves or give badge numbers. This is illegal in both Canada and the United States. Justice denied is injustice and that is true whether or not you are charged with upholding the law. If those we give that power to cannot follow the law then the anarchy they are worried about is already here.

Fortunately there are those willing to ride the horse of justice and thousands have traveled to Standing Rock.

Ed note: The Nation would like to thank the Grand Council of the Cree for sponsoring the trip to Standing Rock.

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