At the Morton County Courthouse in North Dakota on Monday, authorities dropped or rejected multiple felony and misdemeanor charges against water protectors involved in the ongoing resistance to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, including a felony charge against Marcus Frejo Little Eagle, known by his artist name Quese IMC. “Water is what’s going to bring our people back together,” he says. “This destructive unnatural force that is trying to destroy this water is the same force that dismantled our homes back in the day during the Indian wars.” The state also dropped a felony charge against Little Eagle’s nephew, Morgan Frejo. Misdemeanor charges against water defender Cody Hall were also dropped.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, throughout the day Monday, authorities dropped or rejected multiple felony and misdemeanor charges against water protectors, including a felony charge against Marcus Frejo Little Eagle, known by his hip-hop artist name Quese IMC. The state also dropped a felony charge against Little Eagle’s nephew, Morgan Frejo. Misdemeanor charges against water defender Cody Hall were also dropped. Well, Democracy Now! was on the ground at the Morton County Courthouse and jail throughout Monday and bring you this report.
QUESE IMC: My name is Quese IMC. This water is what brought me here, and this water is what’s going to bring our people back together, because this destructive, unnatural force that is trying to destroy this water is the same force that dismantled our homes back in the day during the Indian wars. But what we can know as Native people—not just Native people, but all people—is that we have to come back to that water. You know, we have to carry that love of that water in our heart, because that water is going to be here long after we’re gone, just like the sacred rocks.
AMY GOODMAN: Today you went into the courtroom, and you were charged with a felony?
QUESE IMC: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the felony?
QUESE IMC: Unjust. That’s what it was. It was unjust.
AMY GOODMAN: How long have you been facing these charges for?
QUESE IMC: Oh, man, it was a shock. It was scary. Over a month, you know.
AMY GOODMAN: And how has that affected you during this month?
QUESE IMC: Emotionally, I know that everybody who’s been at the camp, they’re going to leave with anxiety, they’re going to leave with PTSD. A lot of things are going to—are going to give you anxiety. It’s real. And I faced those, and I had to pray, go through ceremony to release myself from those things, because it’s real, you know? But the thing about it, it’s a genetic memory that we have as Native people. All these things that we’re enduring, we remember that through our genetic memory. And so, our ancestors are with us still. And so, we can make it through, if we believe, you know, and we live—strive to live beautiful, good lives and be good to ourselves and be good to each other.
MYRON DEWEY: Ohoba Shunami [phon.], which means Strong Thinker in Paiute. My English name is Myron Dewey. And I’m going to walk into the place where I’m not comfortable at being. You know?
AMY GOODMAN: You’re turning yourself in.
MYRON DEWEY: Yes, I’m going to turn myself in.
AMY GOODMAN: There is an arrest warrant for you?
MYRON DEWEY: There is an arrest warrant for me stalking the Dakota Access pipeline security, which these are guys that had no badges, no names, no license plates. So, it’s a little intimidating when you see these guys looking like Navy SEALs in the back, you know, when you’re traveling, when you’re documenting. You know, I came as a filmmaker and digital storyteller, and I’m leaving now as an environmental justice filmmaker and journalist.
AMY GOODMAN: Is this a misdemeanor or a felony?
MYRON DEWEY: This is a misdemeanor.
AMY GOODMAN: And why did you decide to turn yourself in today?
MYRON DEWEY: You know, we put our faith in the law. I’m a dual citizen. I’m also a Walker River Paiute tribal member, which is of a sovereign nation. And through this whole time, I’ve been using my tribal ID, which they have accepted. And now I’m going to go in with the same—the same—I’m just going to face what is out there. This is what anyone would do when you get a warrant. You just follow through and hope that the legal system will support that, as well, and be honest, as you are, coming in.
You know, we’re just journalists documenting the inaccuracies that’s happening here. And I’m a filmmaker. I came to film. But it ended up being not what I was expecting to do, was to document the way there was bullying going on, the way there was people being rammed off the road. People—the things that were just not true in the Morton County Police Department, we counteracted with drill media. Right now we’re going to walk into the jail. Looks like I’m going to be serving overnight in the jail.
ANGELA BIBENS: My name is Angela Bibens. I’m a licensed attorney in Colorado. I’m also Santee Dakota by heritage. My dad was enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Nation in Northeast Nebraska.
Today we have four preliminary hearings on water protectors who were charged with felonies regarding circumstances where they’re alleged to have locked down. We also have five bond hearings this afternoon, as well, for water protectors who were arrested on Saturday, one of whom is charged also with a felony. This State’s Attorney’s Office is overcharging at least the felony cases, if not many of the misdemeanor cases, as well. I think it’s to create more misperceptions of the water protectors as being, you know, able to commit felonies, therefore maybe they’re more, you know, violent or dangerous to the community. And I think that’s flatly wrong, and the judge agreed with us today. Our water protectors are unarmed and not dangerous. They’re elders and women and children and families at the front line. This is—this is water that we’re talking about, not weapons.
ROBIN MARTINEZ: And I’m Robin Martinez. I’m an attorney in Kansas City, Missouri. I practice in both Missouri and Kansas. I’m the regional vice president for the National Lawyers Guild.
Right now we’re at the very early stages of taking a look to see what has happened in terms of the civil rights violations that have occurred. Unfortunately, it seems like the local authorities here, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and, in fact, the state of South Dakota, looks like they’re seriously disregarding the civil rights of many individuals. Some of the things that we’re taking a very close look at right now and probably anticipate at some point in the future filing, filing lawsuits in U.S. district court, would be for the violation of First Amendment rights against journalists that have occurred. The one thing that we have seen is particularly the sheriff’s department and law enforcement appears to be targeting journalists. There have been a number of citizen journalists arrested, and they seem to be particularly going after Native American journalists, as well.
Police have become increasingly militarized over the years. I mean, we saw that in my home state, you know, with the city of Ferguson and what occurred there. You know, we’ve obviously seen that on the East Coast, in Baltimore, as well. And now, you know, we know that it’s not only urban police departments that are heavily militarized, it’s the same thing in rural communities, as well. I don’t necessarily know that that, in and of itself, creates—creates something actionable, but from a public policy standpoint, it certainly is incredibly troubling.
SACHEEN SEITCHAM: [inaudible] with West Coast Women Warriors Media Cooperative. Indigenous people globally are all facing this environmental genocide by colonial people, the colonizers and the corporate greed that is happening. Energy Transfer Partners, Kelcy Warren, this is a message to you as the CEO: Investors and shareholders, divest. Your money is no good here anymore. You are not wanted here. Your dirty oil is not wanted here. And the time is now for the shareholders and the investors to see what you are up against: the spirit and the power of the people, the beautiful prayers that are happening, the warriors on the front lines who are standing for land and life, not only for the sacred water here, but for water across the globe. And as I always want to say is that one day, when this is over and we win this fight, I want my grandchildren to say and to know in their hearts and with their feelings, “My grandmother fought for me so I could be here today.”
WATER PROTECTOR: My relatives, we came out here to show our support for these people in court. We’ve seen these felonies get dropped today. We’ve been maintaining our peaceful presence, we’ve been maintaining our song, and we’ve been maintaining our prayer. We’ve been rolling with the most [inaudible] integrity as we can. We did good today. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m going to take some photos, and we’re going to call that a win.
AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks for that report to Laura Gottesdiener, John Hamilton, Hany Massoud and Denis Moynihan. When we come back, we’ll have more on the standoff at Standing Rock, and we’ll look at the health impacts of oil extraction in North Dakota. Stay with us.