The late Dr. Amos Wilson is credited with saying, “If you want to understand any problem in America, you need to focus on who profits from that problem, not who suffers from the problem.” That advice will shed a useful light on any number of inequities, among them the Standing Rock Sioux-led protest against the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been going strong since April.
Police brutality continues to ramp up against these peaceful protesters. Recent college graduate,21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, may lose her left arm after it was hit by an exploding concussion grenade allegedly lobbed her way by police on November 20th. Her father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky, described Sophia’s grievous injury in a document released by Standing Rock medics, to wit:
“A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident – it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in face and groin intending to do the most possible damage.”
Father of Sophia Wilansky, wounded water protector speaks at press briefing
Maxine Herr, speaking for the Sheriff’s department, denied that the police were using any kind of missile or weaponry that would cause that kind of damage, and suggested that Sophia injured herself while rigging bottles of propane as explosives to lob at police. As evidence, it was noted that the only explosions heard on that evening came from the protester’s side. It seems obvious that if the police were throwing concussion grenades at protesters and the protesters weren’t throwing explosives back, one might expect to hear more explosions among the protesters.
Legal observers present at the Standing Rock protest describe a scene of utter carnage, with police aiming a water cannon at protesters in freezing weather, causing hypothermia. One elder went into cardiac arrest but was revived by emergency medics. Rubber bullets and tear gas were also deployed against the trapped, unarmed protesters. Ambulances taking injured protesters to hospitals were blocked and delayed by police barricades.
On November 23rd, Governor Jack Dalrymple placed McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger under temporary suspension. Schwartzenberger is the sheriff who has been commanding the police forces at Standing Rock.
The terror has brought our veterans to the cause. On December 4th, “hundreds” of veterans plan to stand with Standing Rock, placing themselves, as they have before, between Americans and the forces arrayed against them. Only this time, the former military and law enforcement personnel won’t be armed, as is the rule for joining the protest. Wesley Clark Jr., co-leader of the Veterans for Standing Rock, says that he’s going for religious reasons. His co-leader, Michael Wood Jr., adds, “If we don’t stand up for the oppressed, that’s the snowball that starts that leads to everyone else’s oppression. It doesn’t matter if you are a libertarian, a conservative, or a progressive, this is everyone’s fight.”
But is that really true? Perhaps we should see for whom this protest, and not the pipeline, is a problem. Surely there are several investors and companies who will profit if the Standing Rock protest is neutralized, but one in particular stands out. President-Elect Donald Trump has financial ties to the Dakota Access pipeline. As the future leader of the Executive branch, would he be able to set aside his business interests and be as impartial as possible in his role, making decisions to benefit justice and democracy for Americans over taking care of his own financial interests?
Don’t count on it. Trump appears almost completely uninterested in disentangling his business interests from his job as President. As he Tweeted on November 21st, “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!” Apparently, the voters should have known that he’d use his position to profit, or they did know and they didn’t mind. (Or they figured he would and that’s why Clinton was ahead by about two million popular votes, but I digress…)
Standing Rock continues to stand tall against the local police, the Executive branch in general, and, frankly, all of us, but it will be telling to see how it plays out in the coming days and weeks. Standing Rock is a Moment, a test to see which forces will form our future. It is more than the sum of its parts. And while our way of life depends upon the pipeline going through, the continuation of most life depends upon brave Native Americans, people willing to lose their limbs, and a handful of veterans.
According to a tweet by Jordan Chariton of the Young Turks, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they will close down the protest by Dec. 5th. Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has responded. With the veterans present, I’m sure the situation will become …interesting.