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Standing Rock Special: Dakota Excess Pipeline? Media & Water Protectors Face Strip Searches, Jail

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Today we’re revisiting Democracy Now! reports on the ongoing standoff at Standing Rock in North Dakota, where thousands of Native American water defenders are resisting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, over concerns a pipeline leak could contaminate the Missouri River, which provides water for millions of people. Their resistance has been met by increasing repression by hundreds of police officers from North Dakota and surrounding states, as well as by unlicensed pipeline security guards, who unleashed dogs and pepper spray against Native American protectors on September 3. Five days after the Democracy Now! report on the attack went viral, Morton County issued an arrest warrant for Amy Goodman. The original charge against her was criminal trespass. Yet, on Friday, October 14, after Democracy Now! returned to North Dakota to challenge the charges and to continue covering the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline, we learned that the state’s attorney, Ladd Erickson, had dropped the criminal trespass charge for lack of evidence, but had filed a new charge: riot. We feature part of our live broadcast from outside the Morton County Courthouse on the morning of October 17 as we waited to see whether Judge John Grinsteiner would approve the new riot charge, and speak with Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, and with Anishinaabe activist Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Today we’re looking at the ongoing standoff at Standing Rock in North Dakota, where thousands of Native American water defenders and their allies are resisting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline over concerns that a leak could contaminate the Missouri River, which provides water for millions of people. Their resistance has been met by increasing repression by hundreds of police officers from North Dakota and surrounding states, as well as by unlicensed pipeline security guards, who unleashed dogs and pepper spray against Native American protectors on September 3rd.

Well, Democracy Now!'s exclusive video report of that attack went viral, was viewed over 14 million times on Facebook and was broadcast by major outlets, including NBC, CBS, NPR, MSNBC, CNN, The Huffington Post and many others. Five days after Democracy Now! released this on-the-ground report, Morton County issued an arrest warrant for me. The original charge against me was criminal trespass. Yet, on Friday, October 14th, after Democracy Now! returned to North Dakota to fight the charges and to continue covering the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline, we learned that the state's attorney, Ladd Erickson, had dropped the criminal trespass charge for lack of evidence, but had filed a new charge against me: riot. This is part of Democracy Now!’s live broadcast from outside the Morton County Courthouse and jail on the morning of October 17th as I waited to see whether Judge John Grinsteiner would approve the new riot charge.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from outside the courthouse and jail in Mandan, North Dakota. Water and land protectors, as they call themselves, report facing increasing repression amidst the ongoing resistance to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Police have begun deploying military-grade equipment, including armored personnel carriers, surveillance helicopters, planes and drones. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple activated the National Guard in late September. Roughly 140 people have been arrested. Some report being strip-searched in custody at the Morton County jail, even when they’re facing minor misdemeanor charges. This is Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: When I was taken to the jail, first I was taken by a corrections officer, transported from the protest site to the Morton County jail. And then, when they took me in there, you know, they had to take some basic information. And then, one of the things that they do is have you go into a small room, and there was a female officer there, and we had to—I had to take my clothes off, and then, I don’t know, basically—

AMY GOODMAN: Cavity search?

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: No, not a cavity search, but I had to squat and cough. That’s what she said. I had to squat and cough and then put the orange suit on.

AMY GOODMAN: So you were put in an orange jumpsuit?

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: Yeah, I was put in an orange jumpsuit. And then I was held there for several hours. And initially, you know, my family didn’t know where I was or didn’t—you know, they heard about it pretty quickly and were able to come and bond me out or bail me out. I don’t know what you call it. But I was in there for several hours.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it make you feel?

DR. SARA JUMPING EAGLE: It made me feel—you know, it made me think about my ancestors and what had they gone through. And this was in no way a comparison to what we’ve survived before, so just made me feel more determined about what I’m doing and why I’m here.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She was charged with disorderly conduct. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who founded the first resistance camp, the Sacred Stone Camp, on her own land April 1st, says her daughter was recently arrested, taken into custody at the Morton County jail, strip-searched in front of multiple male officers, then left for hours in her cell, naked and freezing, before the guards finally gave her clothes to wear. LaDonna Allard says her daughter was repeatedly asked by guards, “Who is your mother?” which Allard sees as an indication that her daughter was targeted because of who she is. Cody Hall from Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota says he was also strip-searched after he was arrested Friday, September 9th, held for three days without bail or bond, and then charged with two misdemeanors.

CODY HALL: As I exited out of the vehicles and entered Morton County, I came up an elevator, and as the elevator opened up, I was met with state police. And then, you know, of course, Morton County people were there to book people, but—and then, from there, started the process of the booking, and then, again, you know, went into a private room, where they ask you to, you know, get naked. You know, they had my arms. They, you know, kind of like extend your arms out. And you’re fully naked. And they have you, you know, lift up your genitals and bend over, you know, cough. And so, it’s really one of those tactics that they try to break down your mentalness of everyday life, because not every day do you wake up and say, “Hey, I’m going to get, you know, naked and have somebody search me today,” you know? That’s a private—you know, that’s a private feeling for you, when you get naked, so…

AMY GOODMAN: And four days later, when you were finally released—they hadn’t allowed you to go out on bail or bond for those four days—you came before a judge in the orange jumpsuit?

CODY HALL: Yes, yes, I sat in the court office in my orange jumpsuit, locked, you know, still handcuffed, exited out of the courtroom. And as I left the courtroom, there were 20 or so state police all in their bullet-proof vests, everything just looking, you know, like—you know, like they’re going into action of some sort. And then they literally had a line from the courtroom to the door that connects you to the county jail. And my mother walked out with me. And as we got to the door, they were opening the door up. And as I looked behind me, my mother and I, all of the cops then proceeded to kind of swarm, you know, like make, you know, that big wall as I entered in, which was, again, an overkill, you know, but that, too, though, to show a dominant force.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Cody Hall, who was arrested on two misdemeanors, held for four days, strip-searched here at the Morton County jail just behind us.

Well, for more on the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline and the police crackdown, we’re joined by two guests. Winona LaDuke, Native American activist, executive director of the group Honor the Earth, she lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. And we’re joined by Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. She is Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Winona, let’s start with you. We have spoken to you intermittently through this resistance. Where does it stand now?

WINONA LADUKE: Well, as far as we are in—I mean, I’m just looking at the big picture. Right now there is about 900,000 barrels per day of oil coming out of this state, and they project that into 2019. And so, what I’m trying to understand is, is that if that’s all they have and it’s already going out, why do they need another pipeline of 570,000 barrels of oil per day? In other words, they’re already meeting all their demand. For the next two years, that’s all the oil that’s in there. And this is really—what we call this is the Dakota Excess pipeline.

AMY GOODMAN: The Dakota Excess.

WINONA LADUKE: Dakota Excess pipeline. This is really about spites. It’s really about spite.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

WINONA LADUKE: It’s just really about hating. You know, it’s just really about trying to put something in across these tribes. It’s exactly what the chairman and you said before: If they wanted this pipeline so damn bad, they should have put it north of Bismarck, you know, and they should have—they should not have violated the law. The whole pipeline was approved through something called the Nationwide Permit number 12, which means they could it into a lot of little pieces and never do an EIS, and pretend like—you know, that’s intended for like if you have like a pipeline from a school to the water service center or something like that. It’s not intended for a 1,600-mile pipeline. Total misuse of the law, you know, and the president really needs to intervene and uphold the law.

AMY GOODMAN: Tara Houska, you have been following these protests and the level of militarization in response to the protests. You were there on Saturday. We spoke to you at one of these peaceful marches of hundreds of Native Americans.

TARA HOUSKA: Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen this incredibly militarized response from North Dakota that has been so over the top in reaction to Native Americans peacefully protesting, praying for the land, praying for the water. These are women and children that are out there. I mean, we saw the most—the most recent one on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They had Native Americans out there praying for the land. They put a tipi up in front of the actual pipeline route, and they called that a riot. There’s nobody there rioting. They’re doing that as they’re—North Dakota is doing that as it’s increasing the amount of militarized response, militarized force. They’re calling in other sheriffs from other states. They’re upping this incredible amount of police force for no reason.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, all for this pipeline. Winona, who profits from this pipeline? Who owns this pipeline?

WINONA LADUKE: Well, Enbridge—you know, we just spent four years fighting Enbridge. And Enbridge and Marathon Oil just bought a third of this pipeline. And—

AMY GOODMAN: You fought them in northern Minnesota.

WINONA LADUKE: We fought them in northern Minnesota. And in August, they announced that they had canceled the Sandpiper, which was the 640,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline, tar—you know, pipeline from—the fracked oil pipeline they wanted to put across our territory. We defeated that pipeline, and they came out here and moved out here.

But, you know, I think that the whole context that you’re talking about is really important. This is pretty much the Deep North. That’s what it is. Nobody’s been paying attention to what’s happening in North Dakota. They’ve been flying over it and say, “Hope it works out for y’all.” And in the meantime, Indian arrests have been consistent. There’s no infrastructure. Native people are treated like, you know, third-class citizens. You know, suicide rates—everything is going on. And, you know, the governor is acting like this is Mississippi up here, and you can just do that. And now people are finally noticing. But it’s been going on for a long time up here. And this is, you know, finally a flashpoint where people are saying, “That’s enough. We’re not going to let you take our water. We’re not going to let you destroy that which is ours.”

AMY GOODMAN: You know, after Ferguson, the whole country saw the level of militarization of local police departments. You were there, Tara, where there was an MRAP, there’s a armored personnel carrier at this peaceful protest, where you offered the police water, clean water, right?

TARA HOUSKA: We did. You know, indigenous women went up there, and we offered the police water, sage and sweet grass, and, you know, trying to show that we are peaceful, that we are doing this for not only our children, but their children, too. This is a people issue. Water is a people issue.

AMY GOODMAN: What inspires you most, Tara?

TARA HOUSKA: I think, you know, it’s incredibly inspiring to go out there and to see, you know, a line of police like that and an MRAP—and, you know, we’ve seen sound cannons, there’s helicopters flying overhead—and there’s this little group of Native American people and their allies that are out there, standing there defiant and, you know, trying to defend their people and their land.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about this issue of strip-searching, Winona. It is astounding to hear that even people, like the pediatrician for Standing Rock, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, was strip-searched for disorderly conduct. Is this typical?

WINONA LADUKE: I would say that, generally, North Dakota is not good to Native people and is really behind the times in terms of constitutional and civil rights. You know, I mean, for many, many years, our people have had an undue burden of the legal system against them, and nobody has really paid attention. I mean, the ACLU, for instance, American Civil Liberties Union, had one person that covered both North and South Dakota—a little understaffed, I’d say. You know, and that’s how things developed like this. But it is wrong. It’s wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: Do they have a right to strip-search people for disorderly conduct?

TARA HOUSKA: I think that this state is reading the law as broadly as it can when it comes to violating the constitutional rights to free speech of these people. I think that they—just like Winona said, they have a very long history of treating folks in this manner. And it’s now just kind of coming to light, right? I mean, we’re seeing yourself being—you know, as a journalist, being arrested when you’re out there on the front lines. You’re seeing Shailene Woodley, a famous actress, that’s out there being arrested as she’s filming it, live-streaming it back to her, you know, RV. I mean, this has been happening to Native people in this state for a very, very long time, and it’s just now reaching the mass—you know, people are looking at this, seeing here’s a Native American ceremony, and there’s hundreds of police officers with a militarized response behind them. It’s madness.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you continue to resist with this level of force against you, arrayed against you?

TARA HOUSKA: Because this is—what these folks are standing here for, what I’m standing here for, is the protection of water and the protection of the future generations. That matters more than any, you know, criminal trespass or these, you know, attempts to suppress and keep our voices down. You know, we’re seeing the police represent and protect a company interest more than human beings and people. These are U.S. citizens that are all here standing together. And seeing their rights violated, seeing young children afraid of the police, that shouldn’t happen, but it is.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s what people were saying to the police on Saturday, when they lined up all in riot gear with the MRAP, the armored personnel carrier. They were saying, “Who are you protecting? Why aren’t you protecting us?”

TARA HOUSKA: They’re clearly protecting Dakota Access. You know, they’re protecting this profit interest over people and saying that we’re the danger.

WINONA LADUKE: The system has gone totally rogue, is what’s happened. I mean, you know, the fact is, is that you should not be protecting—how far are you going to go with this pipeline? How far are you going to push these people? How far are you going to push all of us for these pipelines? You know, it’s way too militarized. It’s called a mine-resistant armored personnel carrier. That’s what it is, an MRAP, a mine-resistant. At what point did you need a mine-resistant armored personnel carrier in North Dakota?

TARA HOUSKA: And seeing, I mean, local schools doing, you know, lockdowns when these protests are happening. We saw that emergency alert, which is typically reserved for an amber alert for a child that’s been taken, for protesters, warning in the area—frightening people, like we’re somehow scary.

AMY GOODMAN: This has just started happening. On Saturday, we kept getting, on all of our phones, “emergency alert.” And then it would say something like “protesters in the area.”

WINONA LADUKE: Yeah, they are totally trying to demonize us, is what they’re trying to do. And the fact is, is that the people that are out here, you know, are trying to protect the water. They aren’t making any new water in North Dakota, and this is the only water we’ve got, same water as when dinosaurs were here. And this is what we’re going to need to drink and our descendants are going to need to drink. And all our animals, our horses—all our animals need that water, too. And this is a chance to protect that water. North Dakota has already done enough to kind of mess up the water out here with all that fracking waste and starting to pretend that that’s working out OK for us. It’s not. It’s time to stop. It’s time to stop and protect the water.

AMY GOODMAN: There are a lot of people concerned that this is escalating to a very bad situation. Are you concerned about this?

WINONA LADUKE: Yes, I am concerned that they escalating it. The police are who’s escalating it. Our people have consistently been praying. Our people have been consistently engaged in nonviolent direct action. And, you know, we had a forum in Bismarck this last week, and it was very well attended, because I think people in Bismarck want to know why all these cops are out there, what is going on, you know, why these people are coming in here. So, you know, I’m saying to people of Bismarck, people in North Dakota, we’re here because it matters. I’m from northern Minnesota, and bad things happen in North Dakota and head my way, whether they’re pipelines or emissions from your coal plants. You know, it affects all of us. So, you know, it is time to say our civil rights, our constitutional rights are all being violated.

AMY GOODMAN: Winona, you’re leaving here in just a few hours to go back to Minnesota—

WINONA LADUKE: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: —to fight another pipeline?

WINONA LADUKE: That is right. I also have to say hello to my grandchildren and my children. They’ve been asking me to return.

But, you know, what I would say is that—so, we’re facing this other line—Line 3, it’s called, Enbridge line, 760,000 barrels per day, a tar sand pipeline proposal, same route. You know, we defeated the Sandpiper which was proposed, a brand-new pristine route, as opposed to the six-pipeline-wide aging pipeline infrastructure in northern Minnesota that goes around—across Highway 2. Enbridge now wants 760,000-barrel-per-day pipeline called Line 3, and it’s their single largest project. So, I’m going home. Hearings are starting on that. So, I have to face that.

And, you know, that’s the one that’s going into Wisconsin. That’s why Dane County was also out here, is because they’re facing the biggest pipelines—tar sands pipeline ever. It’s a twin of that, you know. And with a bad governor and, you know, who doesn’t want to protect the people of Wisconsin, that’s why he sent those people out here, too. But they are projecting they’re going to have a big battle on that Line 66 going through Wisconsin, as well as in, you know, northern Minnesota. And I told Enbridge—I had a meeting with them—I said, “We know how to camp, too. We know how to camp, too, you know, and we aren’t going to let you get that pipeline.” You know, they didn’t get the last one; they didn’t get the Sandpiper. And they are not going to get Line 3. And so they should move on.

Enbridge itself, you know, big investor in this, they have a $4 billion wind portfolio. I’m like, “Put some wind up. We’d like you. Do something real. Don’t call this 'energy security,' 'national energy security for the future,' 'energy self-sufficiency.' That’s a pipeline that’s not helping anybody, except for those oil companies. Wind, solar, efficiency—these houses out here are just freezing in the winter. People freeze to death because they don’t have adequate infrastructure in their houses. They’ve got a 50-year-old health clinic. Do something for people if you’re going to invest out here.

AMY GOODMAN: Tara Houska, what is it like to be on the front lines of these protests?

TARA HOUSKA: When you’re out there, you are in a very rural place. I mean, North Dakota is a very rural state. And there’s very limited cell service. There’s very limited connection and connectivity to the outside world. And when you’re out there and you’re facing a, you know, line of police that are armed with assault rifles, there’s an MRAP, there’s whatever military—there’s helicopters overhead, it is very scary. You think about what happens if someone just accidentally, you know, gets too excited and thinks that somehow, you know, maybe we’re praying too hard or whatever it is, and they shoot. You know, that’s how it feels when you’re there. And the police are a scary presence.

It’s not a comfortable feeling to know that you are actually afraid for your life from the police because they’re protecting a pipeline and they’re protecting the interests of Dakota Access. That’s a very scary feeling, and it’s one that I think, you know, more people need to be aware of. And they need to understand that we’ve reached a point now where we’ve got, you know, a state actively and openly protecting the interests of Big Oil, and we’ve got a Congress that’s directly controlled. You know, there’s so many campaign donations that come from Big Oil. And we see a Congress that deregulates the oil industry again and again and again.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. She is Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation. And before that, Anishinaabe activist Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth. Well, only hours after that broadcast, I learned Judge John Grinsteiner had refused to sign off on the riot charges against me, a major victory for press freedom. But since that victory, protectors and journalists have continued to get arrested in North Dakota. More than 400 people have been arrested. When we come back, we’ll be speaking about the increasing repression against the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline. Stay with us.

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Standing Rock Special: Dallas Goldtooth on Police Violence & Repression of Movement Against DAPL

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