Still Fighting at Standing Rock
The national media has moved on, but the story is not over.
I’m sure we remember the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux. This article is long, but it tells us what’s been going on with the hundreds of Native American and other protestors that were arrested. Some have settled their court cases, some have been found not guilty, it’s hard to find unbiased juries, the cases are weak versus the cases are strong depending on who you talk with, and so on. It’s a good article.
Here is an excerpt telling us about one of the protestors, Rattler, who faces federal charges.
Rattler, 45, legal name Michael Markus, is one of six native activists facing near-unprecedented federal charges related to the Standing Rock protest camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The federal cases sit alongside hundreds and hundreds brought by state prosecutors, stemming from vast numbers of arrests made over the six months that the camps stood—a protest which at its height drew up to 15,000 participants from around the world and, for a short time, the dilettantish gaze of the mainstream media. The authorities razed the last major holdouts of the camps on February 23, by which point numbers had already dwindled as blizzard conditions pummeled the prairie lands. The camera crews packed up and most of the country went back to focusing on Trump.
But for Rattler, his federal co-defendants, the many hundreds of arrestees facing state charges, and their lawyers, the fight on the ground in North Dakota is far from over. They face a terrain as brutal and unforgiving as any winter on the Standing Rock reservation: a small-town court system in conservative rural counties with no experience of anything nearing this scale or political valence.
The unbroken American history of native oppression is not lost on Rattler, a marine veteran, truck driver and card-carrying Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota—designated one of the poorest areas in America. His great-great-great-great grandfather was Chief Red Cloud, the storied Oglala Lakota leader who oversaw successful campaigns against the U.S. Army in 1866 and signed the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty, delineating the Indian Country through which the DAPL now runs. Red Cloud died at Pine Ridge in 1909. The same Pine Ridge where over 250 Lakota were massacred and buried in a mass grave in 1890 at Wounded Knee; the same Wounded Knee where, in 1973, American Indian Movement (AIM) activists and supporters from every Indian nation occupied the town.
The Standing Rock federal trials are not likely to begin until October, at the earliest. The six federal defendants have all been charged with use of fire to commit an offense and civil disorder, stemming from events on October 27—a major date in the pipeline standoff on which 141 people were arrested. Police deployed armored vehicles, lashes of pepper spray and LRAD sound cannons to clear water protectors from one of the campsites, while barricades were set alight and DAPL equipment was damaged. The civil disorder charge is a rarely used federal statute with a fiercely political history—it was passed in the late 1960s at the height of the Black Liberation and anti-war movements. AIM members from the Wounded Knee occupation faced the very same charge.
It was not until January 23, three days after Trump’s inauguration, that the Justice Department moved to file federal charges. This, [Sandra Freeman, Rattler’s attorney] said, was “no accident.” Each defendant now faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.