OC Water Warriors head to Standing Rock!

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trump media blackout

Week after week, wall-to-wall speculation on Donald Trump’s cabinet picks on all the major TV networks, and not a word about the most momentous struggle occurring in our nation right now – that of the Lakota and their sympathizers up in North Dakota against big oil, state government, and militarized police, protecting their water and lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Nothing about the brutal attack on hundreds of water protectors last week in subfreezing weather with water cannons, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tear gas and LRAD’s.  Nothing about this coming weekend’s showdown in which thousands of veterans, Native American and otherwise, are expected to show up in defiance of the government.

Nothing on MSNBC (since Lawrence O’Donnell in early September) about what a heroic and historic struggle this is, as you might expect from them.  Nothing on FOX, as you might expect from them, giving the anti-protector, pro-corporate line.  Nothing on CNN, as you might expect, saying “There must be a little truth to both sides’ stories.”  Just a media blackout, presumably urged by the networks’ sponsors.

Ah, NOW I see that CNN finally got up there YESTERDAY.  This is a pretty good basic intro, check it out:

But still, even the nice CNN lady didn’t mention a few things she wasn’t supposed to mention, including the local law enfocement’s and private security’s extreme brutality, which reached an apex in their November 20 onslaught at Highway 1806’s Backwater Bridge.  This is when we realize how important the People’s media is – regular folks up there with their cell phones documenting the atrocities for us all.


This important bridge had been blocked by law enforcement since October 27, using a couple of burned-out trucks – trucks burned by law enforcement (not by the protectors, as police claim.)  Blocking the bridge made it harder for protectors to interfere with the drilling site by the Missouri River, but also made for a dangerous situation denying access to emergency vehicles, and law enforcement kept promising to remove the blockade.  

blown up armOn the night of Nov. 20, some of the feistier younger protectors resolved to attach chains to the burnt-out trucks and remove them themselves.  Then all hell broke loose.  Police launched an attack on them with cold water cannons in sub-freezing weather, along with tear gas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades, injuring and giving hypothermia to hundreds – including a young lady whose arm was seriously injured by a grenade, blowing out bone and sinew and possibly requiring amputation. (right)

THAT whole melee got some people’s attention.  But somehow it wasn’t worth CNN, MSNBC, or FOX mentioning, even in the video above.  Another thing our CNN friend seemed to be instructed not to mention was the BIG PLANS for this coming weekend – at least 2000 US veterans, native American and otherwise, showing up to support the water protectors.  Here’s a good video about that:

And today one of our greatest Congressmembers, Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard – also a veteran – announced that she is joining this swarm, and called on President Obama to halt construction of the “black snake,” the Dakota Access Pipeline.  (hat-tip Mark Daniels.)



I can’t complain about the “media blackout” though – I was also neglecting this story because of the election and its aftermath, even as a dozen of my OC activist friends were heading up to Standing Rock, are there now, or are going up shortly – Boaz, Güera, Naui, Armando, Rashad, Monica, Lou, Jaguar, Sweetlief — off the top of my head.  I thought I’d give this piece the OC angle by talking to a few of them about what they did, what they saw, up at Standing Rock.

Them that know who it was that disabled this DAPL tractor, aren't saying.

Them that know who it was that disabled this DAPL tractor, aren’t saying.

Boaz went up with Güera earlier in November, for about a week around Veterans’ Day.  Every day, “whenever there was no action,” they constructed shelters, a sort of shelter called “Echo 1 Shells” which need nearly no materials besides what can be found in North Dakota’s nature – mud, lava rock;  there was a concrete engineer there also helping them.  At other times, they were running from cops and security – like on Veterans’ Weekend Friday, when 37 protectors were arrested.  

But Boaz, who is half native American himself, was most impressed by the sense of SPIRITUALITY in the camp.  “It’s magical, man.  Those people’s prayers are powerful.  I can’t wait to go back there…  This is EVERYONE’S fight.”

Güera writes in:

“My experience was eye opening. I was suffering from my stomach due to extreme anxiety coming back from an action, and I met a womyn in the herbal tent both seeking relief.  She had open wounds on her arm from tear gas that practically burned all three layers of skin and it seemed as if it continued to eat at the skin. The herbal tent folks were the best they worked day and night helping all who came in. I spent a lot of time there with them.

guera in car“I was also with a few of my fellow brown beret brothers networking. I met so many beautiful people from all of the country even outside of the US. We were there in unity and there was a sense of endless love between each other. One night I was eating dinner in the main kitchen with absolute strangers but we ate as if we had all known each other for years.

“It was a good feeling to know we all care. That’s exactly why we went out there because we all care and will never stop caring. I have a horrible time remembering names but I will never forget the faces of the people I encountered. Our time there wasn’t as long as we wanted it to be but our mission was to get there kill the damn black snake and protect others as much as we could. It was a hell of a ride. My only wish is that we could’ve stayed longer through those harsh winter conditions. I am definitely in spirit with the water protectors still out there. Mini Wiconi!  (Water is life.)

Our friends Naui, Lou Noble, and Steven Sweetleaf (of InLeague Press) went up there not only to help but to bear witness with their live videos – Lou is still up there – stay warm, Lou!  Here’s one of Sweetleaf’s interviews, describing pre-November 20 police craziness:

Rashad (who occasionally blogs here as “The Happy Arab”) went up with Monica (previously of OCCCO, now of the Law Enforcement Accountability Network) on the weekend following Thanksgiving.  Last Sunday, in the wake of the Bridge Melee, the main action was a prayer/march across the bridge toward a line the militarized police and private security had drawn, which nobody was supposed to cross.  Everybody crossed it.  The police, perhaps unwilling to repeat the excesses of the previous week, did nothing.  

rashad and monica kaffiyehs

big crowd

There were a lot of Palestinian-Americans in the march, and as they walked they conversed with the tribal elders about how much their two people had in common, especially in the inexorable theft of their lands.  The Palestinians had brought sixty kaffiyehs, and by the end of the march the entire front row was dressed in them.

kaffiyehs 1

Rashad agrees with Boaz that there are two basic groups of people there (depending on age and hormones) – ones who want to push things and cause a little trouble, and ones who want to sit and pray.  There’s actually a place for the former, self-dubbed the “Agitators’ Camp.”  And internet access gradually becomes a lot better as you reach “Facebook Hill” which is as close as you can safely get to the police station!

night sky

Armando, a Marine and Democratic activist who campaigned for Fr. Arturo Ferreras in Anaheim’s District 4, was also up  last week, fell ill and came home, but is going back there tomorrow with a car load of veterans, and staying for the long haul.  His first impression was being “overwhelmed by the acceptance and invitingness of the natives,” who helped him and his friends set up camp, provided food, and made them as comfortable as possible … and yet strangely mixed in with the overall sense of serenity was the looming fear of what law enforcement might do next. 

armandoAs a veteran, Armando was accustomed to the sense of danger and hostility, but he had NEVER BEFORE EXPERIENCED IT ON U.S. SOIL.  He noticed law enforcement (police and private security) taunting the natives with their overwhelming gear and weaponry.  He says that on the 27th it was UNMISTAKEABLE that the constantly circling airplanes were deploying some sort of “chemtrails” on the people below – “you could taste it in your mouth.”  There are planes circling the camp 24-7, EXCEPT for when news cameras are present.

Beyond that the camp was amazing to him – there were people from all over the world, from very old to very young, all treating each other like family.  He estimates 10,000 water protectors there on Thanksgiving weekend.  The natives provided their new supporters with training for engaging in confrontation without resorting to violence.

As I said, he is going back tomorrow for the long haul, with two specific dates looming in everyone’s mind:  December 5, the date the North Dakota Governor and the Army Corps of Engineers have set for eviction (but they will not leave) and January 20, when the very unsympathetic President Trump takes office.

The Orange Juice Blog will be keeping in touch with these brave souls who are putting their lives on the line for our environment and our native people’s rights.  For more detailed information on the whole desmadre, this wikipedia page is good

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.