- Shailene Woodleytelevision and film actress. She appeared in the TV series Secret Life of the American Teenager and has starred in films including The Divergent Series and The Fault in Our Stars.
On Tuesday night at the Sundance Film Festival, Democracy Now! interviewed actor and activist Shailene Woodley, who participated in a protest Monday against the festival’s sponsor Chase Bank over its support for the Dakota Access pipeline. Woodley is known for her role in “The Divergent Series,” and she most recently starred in the film “Snowden,” about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She was arrested in October for protesting the Dakota Access pipeline.
AMY GOODMAN: Those are water protectors with the Red Warrior Camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, singing at a protest at the Chase Sapphire lounge here in Park City. Chase Manhattan Bank is one of the Sundance Film Festival’s leading sponsors. Monday’s protest targeted the bank’s investment in the Dakota Access pipeline.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah. Last night here at the Sundance Film Festival, I interviewed actor and activist Shailene Woodley, who participated in that protest Monday against the festival’s sponsor, Chase Bank, over its support of the Dakota Access pipeline. Shailene Woodley is known for her role in The Divergent Series. She most recently starred in the film Snowden about the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She was in The Fault in Our Stars, as well. Shailene was arrested in October for protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. I asked her for her response to Trump’s presidential memos.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: You know, you sort of have in the back of your mind a little hope that maybe it wouldn’t happen. But it’s—I can’t say that we were shocked. You know, I think, moving forward into this administration, a lot of people on the ground in North Dakota, in some ways, expected this, which is why people haven’t left the camp. When the Army Corps of Engineers, back in December, announced that they were going to deny the easement, and they did deny the easement, many people, hundreds of people—actually, at that time, thousands of people, decided to stay. And now there are still a few hundred people on the ground in North Dakota. And I think their perseverance, throughout the weather, throughout the subzero-degree temperatures, proves that they didn’t quite believe that this new administration wouldn’t do what President Trump decided to install today.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, just yesterday, you were here in Park City, Utah, with many water protectors, as people sat in front of Chase Sapphire lounge protesting Chase Manhattan Bank’s investment in the Dakota Access pipeline. But today you hear the president of the United States is pushing forward. So, what does this mean? You were here yesterday with the tribal chair, Dave Archambault. And he’s talking about closing the camps. That’s what the tribal council has voted. But what does this new order mean?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: Well, I can’t speak for the tribe. I also can’t speak for those that are at camp. But I can speak from my own perspective, which is, it doesn’t actually matter what the president of the United States decides to do, it doesn’t matter what his administration decides to move forward with, if there is no money invested in this pipeline. As we all know, it’s one thing to sign a petition. It’s one thing to retweet something or to talk about it or to take a stance on something. But it’s another thing to actually create change through your actions. And the best way to do this is with our money. We have to put our money where our mouth is. We have to divest from these giant corporate banks that are invested in the Dakota Access pipeline, so that when that time comes for this pipeline to be put in the ground, if that’s what this administration is going to follow through with, they won’t be able to, because there’s no money invested. So, from my perspective, regardless of what the tribe wants and the water protectors on the ground in North Dakota want, we have to ensure, as a population, that if we want clean drinking water, because it shouldn’t be a privilege—it’s not a privilege; it’s something that should be available for all human beings; it’s a human right—we have to ensure that there’s no money invested in the pipeline, and by withdrawing our money by Chase Bank and Bank of America and Citibank—and there’s a list. There’s like 19 large corporate banks that are invested in this pipeline.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the significance of protesting here in Park City? What is the Chase Sapphire lounge?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: So, we’re at Sundance Film Festival right now. Sundance, in itself, is a ceremony amongst Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people, which the Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock Reservation are a part of. And it’s a very important ceremony in their traditions. Sundance Film Festival, for since the origins of its creation, has been a huge supporter of indigenous communities. And yet, one of the largest sponsors of this film festival is Chase Bank, which is investing in the Dakota Access pipeline, which directly affects the indigenous communities in America.
I think we’re beyond the point of—and I keep saying this, but we’re beyond the point of looking at the facade. We have to look at what’s behind the scenes. We have to think outside of the box. And so, even though perhaps the people of the Sundance Film Festival didn’t register, didn’t think about how Chase was actually detrimental to indigenous communities through its actions and decisions, it is. And so, we, as a population, as a film festival, as different corporations that do stand with indigenous people, have to start thinking about the corporations that don’t stand with them, and take a firm stance and say—and draw the line and say that, you know, we have to—we have to, again, put our money where our mouth is.
AMY GOODMAN: Just tonight in New York City—this is hours after Donald Trump signed off on these orders—thousands of people came out near Trump Tower to protest the pipeline. What does this protest mean? And what are the plans right now?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I think this protest just shows that the mobilization is not going to end anytime soon. The women’s marches in D.C. showed us a lot about how our country feels about the current administration. And the fact that so many people showed up—it doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, it doesn’t matter if you’re progressive, it doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or Republican or Democrat. Clean drinking water is necessary for human survival. And without it, none of us can survive. We have to start thinking about that. We have to start digesting that and acting upon that. And I think the thousands of people who, within hours, decided to show up in New York City are proving that when the people stand together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve. And people are ready for that. Complacency is out the door. Apathy is out the door. It’s time to be empathetic, even if it’s not on our front doorstep. This is a fight that belongs to all of us. This is the fight of our lives.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the dead of winter in North Dakota. What does the protest look like there now where the pipeline is? The final piece of the permission for the pipeline is to go under the Missouri River, if it gets there. Explain what the environmental impact statement is about and what could happen right now. I mean, that was, I guess you could say, authorized by President Obama, but he’s no longer in power.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: So, I don’t want to speak too much about the environmental impact statement, because I don’t feel like I’m the best representative for that. But I do know that because that has been enacted and because that is in place, it will be more difficult for Trump’s administration to do something about the Dakota Access pipeline, but it’s not going to prevent it from being installed all the way, which is why the camp in North Dakota so important.
And the water protectors, who are there in subzero-degree temperatures—I haven’t been there for about a month, but the last time I was there, there was a whiteout blizzard. There were people who were dealing with hypothermia. There were people who were snowed in in their tipis and their tents. And yet they still persevered, because they understood the importance of showing up.
And I think another thing that’s important, especially for people who are watching this right now, is there’s a lot of emphasis on showing up and being in North Dakota, which is incredibly important, but oftentimes I think we overlook the fact that the front lines don’t only have to be in North Dakota. The front lines can be in your wallet. It can be, again, with divesting from a particular bank. It can be calling a certain congressman or your senator. It can be putting pressure on this administration as a citizen of the United States of America, demanding the drinking water that you want not only for this generation, but future generations.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s a lot of force arrayed against the water protectors. If confirmed, you’ve got the CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary of state. If confirmed, the largest private oil corporation in the world. If confirmed, you’ve got Texas Governor Perry, the former governor, who wanted to end the Department of Energy, who got millions of dollars from Kelcy Warren, the head of Energy Transfer Partners, for his two presidential campaigns. If confirmed to be head of the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, you’ve got Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who sued the EPA 14 times to deregulate it. What gives you hope?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: The people. The people give me so much hope. I’m the eternal optimist, but it really boils down to the people. And I think, for centuries in this country, we have been so complacent. And I use the word “apathy” a lot, because unless, again, it’s on our doorstep, we don’t tend to do anything about it. But we don’t have time to let apathy get in the way anymore. We don’t have time to let the color of our skin, to let our beliefs, whether it’s our religious beliefs, the ideals that we’ve grown up with, get in the way of human rights and social justice. And I think the millions of people who are standing together around this country, in a way that we have not seen in centuries, is really powerful and sends a powerful message out to the world and to our current administration, that we’re not going to be complacent.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you get so involved with this? You got involved with this, what, like about a year ago, before the first resistance camp at Standing—at Sacred Stone.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I got involved with it, A, because I’m a true believer in switching over to renewable energy and transitioning from fossil fuels immediately. But I also got involved with this particular pipeline over other pipelines because of the direct effect on indigenous communities in our country. For since the time of colonization, we have not only ignored, but been very ignorant to the history that we all are taught. We are taught a Western narrative of what happened when this land was colonized. We don’t know the truth. I don’t even know the whole truth still, and I’ve spent a year in the trenches with indigenous people. It’s our responsibility to recognize that we may not know what side of history our ancestors were on, but to learn about the history of this country, the true history of this country, and move forward in a good way, move forward with allies that don’t necessarily look like us. And maybe we have different belief systems, and maybe we have different backgrounds, but we have to take down those barriers. And that’s why I initially was encouraged by the Dakota Access pipeline movement, not only because of the indigenous communities, but because it was led by indigenous youth. And that’s something that I think we need to start paying more attention to.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you’ve been arrested in North Dakota, haven’t gone to trial yet. But you weren’t engaging in civil disobedience at the time.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I was arrested for engaging in a riot and for criminally trespassing. I was the only person out of 300 people who were participating in a particular action to be arrested. I was live-streaming. There was 40,000 people who were watching on my Facebook live stream, when I was picked out of the crowd of 300 people and specifically arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you planning to get arrested?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: No, definitely not. Actually, on the live stream, you can hear me say, “If I stand here, I won’t get arrested, right?” And everyone—you can hear probably 10 voices say, “No, you can’t get arrested if you’re standing here.” And I still got arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: And you got arrested, actually, when you were walking to your vehicle.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I was walking to my vehicle. I was with my mom and a few friends. And there were two large tanks outside of the RV that I was in and, I would say, maybe 10 cops standing there with batons, with their full riot gear. And they grabbed him, and they said, “Are you Shailene Woodley?” And I said, “Yes, I am.” And they said, “You must remain here.” They went around the corner, discussed amongst themselves. I waited there for what felt like five minutes; it was probably 45 seconds. And they came back, and they said, “You’re under arrest.” And I asked why, and they said—
AMY GOODMAN: Wait. They said, “Are you Shailene Woodley?” before they arrested you—
SHAILENE WOODLEY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —before you identified yourself. You didn’t have a name tag on?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: No, no name tag. It’s all on Facebook Live, as well, so the whole thing is documented.
POLICE OFFICER: Look, right now you’re being placed under arrest for criminal trespassing, all right? OK?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I have—but I have one question.
AMY GOODMAN: So you were targeted.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I mean, one could say that.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, when do you go to trial?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: My trial has constantly been shifting. As of right now, it’s March 31st.
AMY GOODMAN: March 31st.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And do you plan to go back to North Dakota for it?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I do.
AMY GOODMAN: So the stakes are very high right now. Some of the water protectors that came to Park City yesterday, that were protesting Chase Manhattan Bank and are also featured in a new film here at Sundance called Rise, about indigenous resistance in this country, had rubber bullet marks just in the last weeks. This wasn’t from a while ago. So people are continually getting arrested in North Dakota right now, even when the pipeline didn’t have the easement for under the Missouri River. People, young people, are really afraid also, afraid of getting hurt, what this could mean.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: Yeah, I think there’s a common—a huge misconception, actually, in this country that the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline has been over. The minute that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to deny the easement, I think, by population and by popular opinion, people decided that they didn’t need to pay attention anymore. And what we started to see at the end of this movement, which was frustrating but also beautiful, was that people started to catch on, and it sort of became a trend. It became a trend to say, “I stand with Standing Rock.” It became cool to say, “I fight against the Dakota Access pipeline,” became something that was hip to talk about or to retweet. And that’s wonderful, because it garnered more attention. But what we’re seeing now is this fight is far from over. This fight has always been far from over. We knew that there was a huge opportunity with President Trump’s administration to come in and change what President Obama decided to do.
And so, my prayer would be that all of the people who paid attention when this was something that was trending on Twitter, when this was something that was trending on Instagram, continue to pay attention to the water protectors, because, like you mentioned, there are Facebook Live videos that come out every single night of people being shot with rubber bullets still. And that’s something that I was shocked by two-and-a-half weeks ago when a friend sent me that Facebook Live, because you assume that it doesn’t keep happening. But just because you’re not on the ground and I’m not on the ground doesn’t mean it’s not still there. And we must stay aware of these situations.
AMY GOODMAN: And President Trump saying this means jobs, even pushing for the pipelines to be made in the United States.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: Thank you. Thank you for bringing that up. That is—it’s something that blows my mind, because perhaps it will create, let’s say, a couple thousand jobs or a million jobs in America. They’re temporary jobs. If we’re talking about real job creation in this country, we have to start looking at renewable energy. It’s the only way. That is a permanent job. And not only that, you’re creating the infrastructure that keeps—that guarantees energetic independence within our country. We know that Energy Transfer Partnerships and the Keystone XL pipeline—we know that lots of that oil is being exported. So, when their argument is that we’re creating jobs and we’re also creating energetic independency, that’s not true. It’s a flat-out lie. And so, if we want to install both of those things, and if our new administration and Trump wants to follow through on his promises to this country, which was creating new jobs and creating better infrastructure for the people who are from America and are living in America, then we have to start looking at renewables. It’s the only way.
AMY GOODMAN: Shailene, how have the protests, the nonviolent civil disobedience, the resistance camps in North Dakota changed you?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: It changed me, because for the first time in my life, not only did I witness, but I felt like I was—I got to see—I got to be proven wrong, in that you can protest, and you can win a fight without violence and without aggression. And you can win with compassion, and you can win with kindness, and you can win with prayer. And all of these things, the ceremony and kindness, compassion, you know, they’ve been written off for so long as hippie ideals or as things that don’t actually create true change. Dakota Access pipeline, the fight against DAPL, changed that, because indigenous people were at the forefront of this fight, and indigenous people refused to let ego and fear and aggression get in the way of true change and true love for future generations. They’re resisting this pipeline not for you and I, not for those of us who are alive right now or my future children; they’re resisting this pipeline for seven generations to come, so that in seven generations we will know, we can guarantee, that they will have water to drink. And that is something, moving forward—I don’t care if we’re dealing with feminism or climate change or fight against the private prison system—that is something we have to hold in our hearts and in our hands, is that prayer, that ceremony and that steadfast commitment to compassionate resistance.