Yesterday as America celebrated Thanksgiving, Native Americans of the Sioux tribe at the Standing Rock reservation remained the latest victims of the police state. Well to be honest, Native Americans (much like Black Americans) have historically received the worst end of the white supremacist stick. Many of the treaties signed in the past with indigenous Americans have longed been violated and some activists site treaties signed in 1851 and 1868 specifically with regards to the current-day #NoDAPL protests.
In 1903, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress may unilaterally break treaties signed with Native Americans. So basically none of the treaties signed between the U.S. government and Native Americans have ever really meant as much as one might think.
The Sioux are victims of state violence because of their protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. A 1,172 mile-long oil pipeline that connects the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota with an oil tank farm in Illinois. It passes through South Dakota and nearby Sioux lands and as written above, disputed territory based on past treaties. However the galvanizing part of this story comes from the fact that the pipeline passes beneath the Missouri river which is the primary drinking source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Obviously due to how often oil pipes burst, the people of Standing Rock obviously feel that their drinking water can become contaminated.
Another inciting incident was based around protests against the bulldozing of land on sacred Sioux burial grounds at Standing Rock.
Since August of 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have stood in open opposition to the continued construction of the pipeline; their leaders called out to other Tribes seeking aid in what they knew was to come.
What came were the militarized vehicles designed for warfare overseas. What came were also the militarized arm of law enforcement in the form of assault weapons and enforced body armor. The complete overreacting heavy hand of the establishment in its response has become commonplace post-Ferguson, post-Baltimore, post-Charlotte, post-Baton Rouge and other cities and towns that have seen flareups between the system and those fighting for a better life and total justice.
Much like Flint, what is happening today at Standing Rock have crossed the lines of human rights abuses. According to The Guardian, 300 water protesters have been injured due to the police use of water cannons. Another 26 had to be hospitalized due to bone fractures and hypothermia they received from what is described as a 'mass casualty incident' from the use of rubber bullets and tear gas as well.
Let us make no mistake, these protesters are being attacked violently. Just because lethal weapons aren't being used doesn't mean non-violent activists aren't coming under physical assault by the State. I think it's important that we don't lose sight of that fact and think it's somehow ok or acceptable that this is done simply because lethal bullets aren't being used.
The ACLU have come out strongly against the use of water cannons against the Standing Rock water protectors as they characterize water cannons as potentially life-threatening weapons. They cite examples in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Turkey, South Korea and the Ukraine where the use of water cannons has been directly attributed to the loss of life. I think too when we are forced to take into account the reality that those water weapons were used at night during freezing temperatures. To use weapons like that was way beyond the pale as those protesters could've definitely been killed.
It pains me to write this, but it appears that America is in the midst of a major constitutional crisis. The only problem is most people don't realize it and I'm beginning to believe some don't care - which is a dangerously reckless position to have. All over America, we're seeing more and more cases of unconstitutional violations of the law going unpunished. More and more I'm beginning to view that document (the Constitution) as existing purely for theater. Sure, I know that there are many examples of constitutional rights being protected and the Constitution being respected as a document. However there are many examples of it not being respected and regarded as well. How much strength can the U.S. constitution truly have when the State itself violates the laws it was sworn to protect and uphold and the judicial branch of government sits silent as constitutional violations occur?
Much of the news coming out of Standing Rock has come from independent media of which I don't always agree with, but see the incredible value in. There has been a corporate media blackout on this issue as the people involved in running for office (or already in office) are bound to be on the wrong side of the issue. Hillary Clinton practically ignored the Standing Rock issue outside of making vague written statements. Donald Trump, the new President-elect, and a few of his advisors have a financial stake in the company associated with the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Lastly, President Barack Obama comes off as simply counting the days down to when he no longer has to deal with these problems anymore. His inaction has been extremely problematic, but expected based on his reactions to similar events in the past and the typical reaction establishment Democrats have to situations like this in general.
One positive thing that could be said about Obama is that his administration stepped in and almost politely asked the company to "voluntarily pause all construction activity." Which hasn't happened by the way...so what now Mr. President now that the request by your administration has essentially been ignored?
Independent media has once again done what the corporate media refuses to do and that is cover news stories that expose truths about America that the power structure wants to cover up and ignore. Let's not forget how back in September Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was arrested and eventually charged for her coverage of the Standing Rock protests. So the message is being sent loud and clear by law enforcement that they don't want anyone covering this story. Luckily that hasn't stopped citizen journalists and independent media from continuing to do just that though.
In societies with decaying democratic institutions, one might expect to see an increase in human rights abuses domestically. One might expect to see a total disregard for life, especially as the U.S. war machine continues to churn abroad with no sign of stopping in the near future. All of this happening while an overall air of xenophobia and racial hatred and angst consume the country.
We have to remember to cherish what we have today and fight for it like it'll be one day taken away. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, so the days of people thinking they can chill on the sidelines are quickly coming to an end. What am I thankful for? I am thankful for my health, my mind, my will, my family and my people. I am thankful for the concepts of freedom, liberty and justice because without those, we wouldn't have as much hope as we do. Lastly, I am thankful to have Black and Intellectual which has become my way of trying to make sense of this crazy world we live in.