by Richard Halstead
Erin Schrode of Mill Valley was participating as an observer at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota Wednesday when she says police shot her in the back with a rubber bullet.
“The water protectors were trying to cross this small tributary to get to the other side, which is Army Corps of Engineers public land, to hold a prayer circle, and they were met by a line of militarized police with assault rifles and canisters of pepper spray,” Schrode said.
“I was standing on the shore interviewing a Native American man with my iPhone,” said Schrode, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 2nd District earlier this year. “Suddenly, I felt an absolutely astonishing blow to my lower back.
“I cannot tell you why they targeted me,” she said. “I don’t know if they were aiming at someone else and missed. I don’t know if it was because I had a camera.”
Schrode is just one of several Marin residents who have traveled to North Dakota in recent weeks to lend their support to American-Indian-led demonstrations aimed at blocking the construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pipeline is designed to carry crude oil from the Bakken fields in western North Dakota to Illinois. The Sioux, who initiated the protests, are concerned because the pipeline is slated to run less than half a mile from their reservation and under the Missouri River, which is a source of drinking water for 17 million people. The Sioux say the pipeline would desecrate some of their burial grounds and other sites of cultural and historic significance.
Protests at the pipeline site began in the spring and have drawn American Indians from throughout North America as well as many other supporters. Police have been criticized for using military-grade equipment, attack dogs, pepper spray and a sonic weapon to disperse crowds.
Amnesty International USA has dispatched a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the response following strip searches and more than 100 arrests.
Peter Anderson of Fairfax, and his partner Christina VanDerPlas, drove their pickup truck to Standing Rock at the end of August and stayed for two weeks. They were there on Sept. 3 when Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!,” reported that private security contractors had turned attack dogs and pepper spray on protesters. Goodman was initially charged with criminal trespassing; but that charge was later dropped.
“I was right there when the private security guards were releasing the dogs on the women,” Anderson said. “I saw the dogs biting the women, and I saw the security guards spraying people with pepper spray.”
Barbara Clifton Zarate of Novato, a director of economic opportunity at the Marin Community Foundation, visited Standing Rock for several days in late October as part of a contingent from Natives in Philanthropy, a network of native and non-native nonprofits, tribal communities and foundations.
“We were followed by an unmarked police car, and there was an airplane flying overhead tracking us,” Zarate said.
“They were setting up a roadblock the day I left,” Zarate said. “It looked like they were preparing for war. There were tanks, Humvees and law enforcement in riot gear.”
The national group 350.org, an organization that uses direct, nonviolent action to address climate change, is supporting the Standing Rock protest. Demonstrations are planned on Nov. 15 in San Francisco during the day and in the evening in San Rafael and Novato. The group 350Marin.org, the Marin chapter of 350.org, is involved in planning for the local actions.
Ken Jones of Greenbrae, a 350Marin.org organizer, said, “It’s a combination of an environmental issue and a social justice issue. The way in which the Native Americans have been treated for a long time is a sign of how we’re going to treat nature.”
Paige Jenkins of San Rafael, a U.S. Navy veteran who says she has been formally adopted by the Lakota tribe, spent about a week at Standing Rock at the end of August.
“Indigenous peoples’ prophecies are coming to fruition right now. That’s the larger arc of this,” Jenkins said. “If we continue on this path, it leads to the destruction of the planet and us. People need to wake up and pay attention to what the native people are trying to show us.”
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