My husband was really shocked when we first started dating, and I informed him that I had been to jail multiple times. That the worst time, was when I was threatened with a terrorism charge.
I was a diehard general activist before I became a mother. I deeply believe in direct action as the only significant means of change. During that time, I never rallied behind a political party. I just fought fascism; I believe that comes from all political angles.
In 2016 I lived in a protest camp. One day, I witnessed brutality that I could not rub from my eyes. I stood transfixed, day after day, watching the national guard hose people down with water cannons in subzero temperatures on live feeds. I saw rubber bullets deployed at under 10 feet, which can be deadly. They aimed for eyes, for phones, for women. It was a war, and the US government was waging it against the Sioux. It was wrong, and it burned in my soul.
This is a famous photo that was shared all over social media in 2016, as far as I can tell it originated on this page, but was captured by Myron Dewey who ran the independent indigenous media company Digital Smoke Signals, before he passed away (RIP Myron). It has been expressed that the images captured by Myron and No Spiritual Surrender are free to share with sourcing.
This is what we were up against, they came after us relentlessly. The court proceedings are still underway, so the American people won't know for years what really happened. According to the media, we were violent insurgents that were trying to blow up a pipeline. I've never blown anything up by chaining myself to it, but I guess I'm hot enough according to the feds.
I committed a slew of "crimes". I'd do it again. To answer the question posed in this week's weekend engagement directly- I feel that it is not only okay to break the law when it stands in the way of justice, but it is our duty. Silence looks identical to acceptance to those who are targeted by malevolent forces.
Officers were sent from ten different states to protect the financial interests of an oil company over people. To support a land grab from the Indigenous peoples of this land, who we've NEVER honored an agreement with. Let me be clear, THAT is why I went.
I want to know what the thought process is, that leads someone to accept the use of the equipment that was deployed against us. Have you ever heard of a Sting Ray device?
Also known as an IMSI catcher, a stingray is a fake cell phone tower. As you can imagine, the laws around using these are very strict, but it doesn't much matter when the entities meant to hold you in check are on your team. They illegally used them throughout the process, but that isn't the crazy part!
Guess who they put largely in charge of this? A company called TigerSwan which was co-founded by Erik Prince, One of the founders of Blackwater. For those who aren't familiar, the company was a big government contractor, until the Nisur Square massacre. It is up to perspective how wrong they were given the situation, only four of the members involved were charged.
If you ask me, no one involved in handling that operation should've been put in charge of another one. Ever. It was only made worse by the irrelevance of their experience in this setting. These men were contractors that had experience fighting terrorists, and that's what they labeled us as. It is at this point that I wish I could see first-hand, did we really look like that to them?
There is an extensive investigation into the illegal acts committed by TigerSwan at Standing Rock, they are currently relevant in dozens of ongoing lawsuits. Some of the strongest charges against them are things like sexual coercion, planting weapons, and instigating violence.
What would I learn if I spent a weekend recalling these events through a different set of eyes, a set that fiercely opposes us?
I'm going to be frank, a whole lot of intel.
That's not all I'd want though, I'd want to understand that person's heart. Find the doors they shut against empathy in their attack on us. Mind you, the only law we broke was not dispersing. Stopping illegal work (THEY had no permit at the time) with non-violent direct action. I want to understand where this division lives between us, that we can fight each other over a company.
The simple desire for more oil isn't enough to inspire incredible violence alone, is it? I imagine I'd have a new set of thoughts on that come Monday, however I do not doubt for one minute that my convictions would not change.
The USA is rapidly becoming a police state, we've already turned prisons into a business. We have the world's highest incarcerated population. We are spied on and manipulated, and it can be weaponized. Standing Rock tells a story of what life could be like here for everyone, if fascism is left unchecked. I will always feel that fighting that is right, even if it's illegal.
This photo was taken after I was maced directly in the face. I shook it off in the snow, the cool plastic of my cot mattress froze to my cheek, but it felt good. Once I could see better, I went into my tipi and stripped my clothes off— and re-maced myself 🤦♀. Perhaps I should've picked spending the weekend learning first aid...
I've been saying that I would write about my time living in a tipi in the middle of a North Dakota winter for weeks now. This week's engagement in Weekend Experiences seemed like it asked too many questions that applied not to answer it here. There is so much more to the story, but I find writing about it truly wears me out emotionally, the rest will come when it's ready 💕