Tag Archives: Activism

Memory, Fire and Hope: Five Lessons from Standing Rock

“The ongoing struggle will not go down in the flames at Oceti Sakowin,” writes Ladha. (Photo: Stephen Yang/Getty Images)

The North Dakota camp may have been evicted but the movement hasn’t lost. Here are five lessons activists around the world can learn from the water protectors.

by Alnoor Ladha | Common Dreams, March 08, 2017

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” —Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Last week, on February 22, 2017, water protectors at the Oceti Sakowin camp, the primary camp of Standing Rock, were evicted by the Army Corps of Engineers in a military style takeover. A peaceful resistance that began with a sacred fire lit on April 1, 2016, ended in a blaze as some of the protectors, in a final act of defiance, set some of the camp’s structures on fire.

“The neoliberal capitalist system has failed the majority of humanity and a new world is emerging.”

The millions of people around the world who have stood in solidarity and empathy with Standing Rock now stand in disbelief and grief, but the forced closure of the encampment is simply the latest chapter in a violent, 500-year-old history of colonization against the First Nations. It is also the latest chapter in the battle between an extractive capitalist model and the possibility of a post-capitalist world.

Of course, the ongoing struggle will not go down in the flames at Oceti Sakowin. We should take this opportunity to remember the enduring lessons of this movement, and prepare ourselves for what is to come next.

1. There is a global convergence of movements

When I visited Standing Rock in October 2016, it struck me that this was the most diverse political gathering I’d ever seen. Over 300 North American tribes had came together for the first time in history. Standing alongside them were over 100 Indigenous communities from all over the globe. A contingent from the Sami people, the Indigenous peoples of Scandinavia, had traversed the Atlantic to show their support the day I arrived. They were joined by black bloc anarchists, New Age spiritualists, traditional environmentalists, union organizers and ordinary Americans who have never attended a protest.

The media has characterized Standing Rock as a one-off protest against a pipeline in North Dakota. But the reality is that the various movements from around the world including the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, the Pink Tide in Latin America, the landless people’s movement from India, the anti-austerity movement in Europe, the global Occupy movement, and the countless awakenings” spreading across the African continent are uniting as expressions of the same impulse: a belief that the neoliberal capitalist system has failed the majority of humanity and a new world is emerging.

2. A more holistic activism is emerging

With its sacred fire, daily prayers and water ceremonies, Standing Rock has helped to reanimate the sacred aspect of activism. We are seeing a shift from resistance to resistance and renewal simultaneously. Progressive movements which once internalized the Neitzchean dictum that “God is dead” are now evolving their positions. As the anarchist philosopher Hakim Bey states: “As Capital triumphs over the Social as against all spiritualities, spirituality itself finds itself realigned with revolution.”There is a shift to embracing a more holistic activism that transcends traditional Cartesian duality and calls upon greater forces. Cedric Goodhouse, an elder at Standing Rock put it simply, saying: “We are governed by prayer.”

“The particular ways in which Standing Rock embodied non-violent direct action has given many activists a new faith in the possibility of a more sacred activism.”

The particular ways in which Standing Rock embodied non-violent direct action has given many activists a new faith in the possibility of a more sacred activism. I stood with dozens of water protectors when they prayed on water in front of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) engineers while they were laying down oil pipeline. The very act of seeing Indigenous elders praying on water said more about the implications of an extractive pipeline than any linear argument. They dropped their tools not only because they wanted to avoid confrontation, but because somehow they understood they were on the wrong side of the moral calculus.

The author Charles Eisenstein reminds us of a powerful insight about sacred activism that has been embodied in Standing Rock: “We need to confront an unjust, ecocidal system. Each time we do we will receive an invitation to give in to the dark side and hate ‘the deplorables.’ We must not shy away from those confrontations. Instead, we can engage them empowered by the inner mantra that my friend Pancho Ramos-Stierle uses in confrontations with his jailers: ‘Brother, your soul is too beautiful to be doing this work.’ If we can stare hate in the face and never waver from that knowledge, we will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement, and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.”

3. Occupation of space is a critical tactic

Even before Occupy there has been a renaissance in the political understanding of the value of place and space. The battlegrounds between the corporate/state nexus and people’s movements are physical realms: the places where resources are being extracted, water is being polluted and capitalist interests are expanding through what Marxist geographer, David Harvey, calls “accumulation by dispossession.”

The occupation of space creates a physical spectacle that forces the corporate media to tell the stories it would otherwise like to ignore. It creates networks of solidarity and deep relationships that span beyond the time and space of the occupation. It creates inter-generational transfers-of-knowledge, both politically and spiritually. It weaves the connective tissue for the continued resistance against corporate (and other imperialist) power.

Standing Rock will be remembered by the thousands of activists who braved blizzards to sleep in tipis, who cooked food together in the communal kitchens, and celebrated in song and ceremony with tribal elders around the sacred fire. As the activist Reverend Billy Talen recently stated: “Zuccotti Park and the stretch of sidewalk in front of the Ferguson police department and the meadow near the Sacred Stone… these three places are lived in. Here is where activists cared for each other and shared food, clothing and medicine. The force that upsets entrenched power the most is this compassionate living, this community in plain sight.”

4. We are Nature protecting itself

Part of the on-going colonial legacy of North America is a battle between the mute materialism of capitalism that seeks to dominate nature and the symbiotic approach of Indigenous thought that sees Nature as alive, and sees human beings as playing a central role in the evolution and stewardship of the broader whole. It is this very worldview that rationalists derisively call “animist” and that continues to confound the utility maximization ideals of modern thought.

Indigenous lands are increasingly going to be a battleground not only for resource extraction, but ideology itself. Although Indigenous peoples represent about 4% of the world’s population they live on and protect 22% of the Earth’s surface. Critically, the land inhabited by Indigenous peoples holds the remaining 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.

“The idea that we are not protestors, but protectors of the sacred is a central theme that resonates throughout the world.”

It is no coincidence that ETP moved away from its early proposal to have the DAPL project cross the Missouri river just north of Bismarck, a primarily white city, to the Standing Rock area inhabited by the Sioux tribe.

During COP 21 in Paris, Indigenous youth groups carried banners that read: “We are Nature protecting itself.” The idea that we are not protestors, but protectors of the sacred is a central theme that resonates throughout the world.

In a powerful article on the Sacred Stone blog, the camp’s founder Ladonna Bravebull Allard said: “This movement is not just about a pipeline. We are not fighting for a reroute, or a better process in the white man’s courts. We are fighting for our rights as the Indigenous peoples of this land; we are fighting for our liberation, and the liberation of Unci Maka, Mother Earth. We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body. We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future.”

These ideals are not just Indigenous ideals; they are ideals linked with our very survival as a species. In a world of catastrophic climate change, protecting the sacred must be the mantra of all activists and concerned citizens.

5. There is a common antagonist

Although the various social movements around the world are portrayed as separate incidents that are particular to their local context, there is a growing awareness among movements themselves that we are uniting against the same antagonist: the deadly logic of late-stage capitalism.

Whether one is fighting for land rights in India or tax justice in Kenya or to stop a pipeline in the US, the ‘enemy’ is the same: a cannibalistic global economy that requires perpetual extraction, violence, oppression, in the service of GDP growth, which in turn, benefits a tiny elite at the expense of the world’s majority.

“The sacred fire at Standing Rock may now be smoldering but it’s reverberations are only beginning to be felt.”

There is a Algonquin word, wetiko, that refers to a cannibalistic spirit that consumes the heart of man. It was a common term used when the First Nations of North America initially interacted with the Western European colonialists. The spirit of wetiko, like many memetic thought-forms, has mutated and evolved, and has now become the animating force of the global capitalist system. We are not just fighting a pipeline; we are fighting the wetiko spirit that has taken hold of our planet like invisible architecture.

What Standing Rock achieved so beautifully was to provide this broader context, to ladder up a local struggle for clean water to the struggle against the forces of wetiko itself. Wetiko is inherently anti-life. And what we are all fighting for is a new system that recognizes our interdependence with the Earth and with each other, and that allows our highest selves to flourish.

The sacred fire at Standing Rock may now be smoldering but it’s reverberations are only beginning to be felt. As Julian Brave NoiseCat poignantly states in his reflections on the impact of this historical movement: “They have lit a fire on the prairie in the heart of America as a symbol of their resistance, a movement that stands for something that is undoubtedly right: water that sustains life, and land that gave birth to people.”

This is the enduring power of Standing Rock. It has created inextinguishable hope, activated our historical memory and created new forms of power by the profound act of starting a global movement from a single sacred fire. The fires of Standing Rock are illuminating the transition that lies ahead and the new society that is emerging from its ashes.

RCMP Intelligence Centre Compiled List Of 89 Indigenous Rights Activists Considered “Threats”

(A line of Mi’kmaq demonstrators and their supporters confront a line of RCMP officers on Hwy 11 on Nov 18, 2013, near Elsipogtog First Nation. APTN/File)

(A line of Mi’kmaq demonstrators and their supporters confront a line of RCMP officers on Hwy 11 on Nov 18, 2013, near Elsipogtog First Nation. APTN/File)

Rattled by Idle No More and Mi’kmaq-led anti-shale gas demonstrations, the RCMP compiled a list of 89 individuals considered “threats” as part of an operation aimed at improving the federal police force’s intelligence capacity when facing Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to an internal intelligence report.

The operation, dubbed Project SITKA, was launched in early 2014 to identify key individuals “willing and capable of utilizing unlawful tactics” during Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to the RCMP report, obtained under the Access to Information Act by two researchers working on a book about state surveillance of Indigenous peoples. The intelligence report was to provide a “snapshot of individual threats associated to Aboriginal public order events” for that year.

The report, completed in 2015 by the Mounties’ National Intelligence Coordination Centre, recommended the RCMP remove Indigenous rights activism from the terrorism-extremism umbrella and instead create a new category for intelligence gathering on the issue. The report also recommended the RCMP maintain updated profiles on identified Indigenous rights activists in police databases.

“I think that this is coming out of the fallout in 2013 with the Idle No More uprising and what happened at the end of the year with Elsipogtog,” said Andy Crosby, the Ottawa-based researcher who obtained the document along with Jeffrey Monaghan, an assistant criminology professor at Carleton University. “This really had an impact on the psyche of the settler state.”

The researchers obtained the RCMP report in an Access to Information request package from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The RCMP did not provide comment on the report as of this article’s posting.

CSIS did not respond to a request for comment.

RCMP template for Indigenous rights demonstrator profiles

_rcmpthreats

Download (PDF, 96KB)

The RCMP intelligence report concluded there was no central organizing individual or group directing Indigenous demonstrations, but found instead a “loose network of protestors with affiliated organizations” that often reacted to local grassroots grievances.

The report noted there were “several influential individuals within the network, a core group that demonstrated a level of stability in their networks, attendance and organization of events.”

The intelligence officers who compiled the report found no “intentional criminal nexus” or “indication of organized crime exploiting the loose network associated to Aboriginal protests to pursue a criminal agenda.”

The RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre was designated to lead Project SITKA in conjunction with Community and Aboriginal Policing, according to the report which was finalized in March 2015.

SITKA was launched “as part of the response to reducing the threat, incidence and prevalence of serious criminality associated to Aboriginal public order, events as well as to protect and facilitate the right to lawful advocacy, protest and dissent,” said the report.

The beginning of 2013 saw the tail-end of the Idle No More movement’s most spectacular demonstrations and ended with a major flare-up near the Mi’kmaq First Nation of Elsipogtog in New Brunswick over shale gas exploration in the region. The anti-shale gas demonstrations culminated in a heavily armed RCMP raid on Oct. 17, 2013, of a protest camp near Rexton, NB. The demonstrations, which lasted several months, saw dozens of arrests and a highway blocked with burning tires.

The main motive behind the anti-shale gas demonstrations—fears hydraulic fracturing threatened the region’s water—is essentially the same as those of the current ongoing demonstrations in North Dakota. There, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fears an oil pipeline threatens its water supply because it will run beneath the Missouri River.

Idle No More march on Dec. 21, 2012 in Ottawa.

Idle No More march on Dec. 21, 2012 in Ottawa.

In January 2014 the RCMP designated Indigenous rights demonstrations as a National Tactical Intelligence Priority.

Using internal files from its divisions across the country, information from other law enforcement agencies and publicly available data, the National Intelligence Coordination Centre created a list of 313 individuals who posed a potential “criminal threat to Aboriginal public order events.” The list was reduced to 89 individuals, both non-Indigenous and Indigenous, who met the RCMP’s criteria. The criteria was based on background, motivation and rhetoric “to have committed or commit criminal activities” in connection with Indigenous rights demonstrations.

It’s apparent the events of Elsipogtog weighed on the minds of the intelligence officers compiling the report. Thirty-five of the 89 individuals on the list were from New Brunswick. British Columbia was next with 16 people on the list, followed by Ontario with 15, Manitoba with 11, Nova Scotia with 10, one from Saskatchewan and one from Prince Edward Island.

The report also linked the majority of the individuals on the list with the Unist’ot’en camp in British Columbia, which is anchored by the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation. The camp has dug in over the past six years in an area along the routes of two proposed natural gas pipelines and a proposed oil pipeline. The camp sits about 66 km south of Houston, B.C., and about 1,000 km north of Vancouver.

The other groups linked by the RCMP to the 89 include the Defenders of the Land, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, the Manitoba Warriors gang and the Council of Canadians, among others.

The RCMP intelligence officers spent six months, from April to September 2014, creating “protestor profiles” for each of the individuals on the final list. The profiles included each individual’s name, photograph, alias, date of birth, age, height, weight, phone number, email address, affiliations, vehicles, history of demonstrations, ability to move across the country and “category of protestor.”

The RCMP has three categories for demonstrators: passive, meaning law abiding; disruptive, meaning willing to employ non-violent tactics; and volatile, meaning willing to provoke police reaction.

The profiles were filed into two databases—the Automated Intelligence Information System and the Police Reporting and Occurrence System—accessible to front-line RCMP police officers, analysts and other law enforcement agencies.

The intelligence report also analyzed the last five years of protest history for those on the list and found they were involved in 69 events, including demonstrations against the G8 and G20 and oil pipelines along with involvement in campaigns calling for a national inquiry into the disproportionate number of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The intelligence report recommended the RCMP stop employing the language of terrorism and extremism to describe tactics used in Indigenous rights demonstrations that are “specifically criminal in nature.” The report recommended the RCMP develop a specific category for these types of demonstrations and targeted individuals to ensure “that peaceful and law-abiding individuals engaged in acts of legitimate dissent will not be investigated or analyzed for the purpose of identifying serious criminality.”

The report also recommended law enforcement brush up on the systemic issues that often trigger Indigenous rights demonstrations.

“Currently assumptions can be made for the causal root of protests; however, without a clear holistic analysis of root causes within a community, this will remain unknown,” said the report. “(It) is recommended that a holistic community analysis methodology be implemented in Aboriginal communities where the RCMP has a policing presence. This community analysis will not only provide information on where the next potential protest would occur….It also enables communities to actively engage, communicate and cooperate with police on a spectrum of topics and issues that have the potential to lead to grievances or miscommunication.”

Crosby and Monaghan’s book will be published by Fernwood Publishing.

By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News

[SOURCE]

The US And Canada Have Blood On Their Hands In Honduras

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Members of the military police march during a parade commemorating Independence Day of Honduras. | Photo: Reuters

The international community needs to be held to account for propping up and subsidizing the murderous regime in Honduras.

Honduran military and police forces, backed by the international community and in particular millions of U.S. dollars, once again brutally attacked peaceful protesters in a week that saw more social movement blood spilt.

The march on Thursday organized by the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, and OFRANEH, an organization which represents the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people, converged outside the Attorney General’s office to demand justice following the assassination of two more prominant social movement leaders in the country.

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During the attack, heavily armed police and COBRA forces (Special Operations Command) indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters and water cannons and physically beat girls and boys, women and men, and the elderly.

Police and COBRA forces attacked just as OFRANEH was initiating a drumming and spiritual ceremony. COPINH was once led by globally-renowned activist Berta Caceres, who was murdered this year for opposing the construction of a dam. They are two of the most respected community organizations in Honduras since before the 2009 U.S. and Canadian-backed military coup, and particularly since then.

Eyewitness Karen Spring from the Honduras Solidarity Network reported:  “The repression was brutal and I’ve been in a lot of repressive marches since the 2009 coup.  This one was up there with the worst, especially since a COPINH member reported that one police took his gun out and fired a shot at his feet.  It all happened so fast and no one expected it; there was no time to get children and elderly out.  People were grabbing kids and running with them as they were crying and choking from the teargas.  The police chased protestors for almost 2 kilometers from the Attorney General’s office.”

COPINH and OFRANEH marched to denounce the assassinations  this week of Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George, two leaders of MUCA, or the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, and the recent attempted killing of two COPINH members. The organizations also are demanding justice for the March 3 assassination of COPINH co-founder Caceres; the establishment of an independent international commission to investigate her assassination; and to demand cancellation of the concession granted illegally to the DESA corporation to develop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project in Rio Blanco, along with numerous other illegal mining and hydroelectric concessions on Lenca territories in western Honduras.

Berta Caceres’ Daughter Speaks

After the attack, Berta Caceres’ daughter – Bertita – spoke in a press conference:

“This is yet another act of repression against people demanding justice for the assassination of our compañera Berta Cáceres. How is it possible that soldiers, weapons and repression are the only way the regime deals with us, even when we have Protective Measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights? … Despite all this repression, harassment and criminalization, we will not permit the construction of development projects of death in our communities.”

Do Not Write Letters of Protest to the Regime

Wondering what to do about this latest act of State repression in Honduras?

Don’t write letters of protest to the regime.

They are impervious to them.  In power since the 2009 coup, the economic, military and political elites care about two things: maintaining their mutually beneficial economic and political relations with and support from the international community (primarily: governments of U.S., Canada and the European community; the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank; and a host of global investors and companies working in the sectors of African palm, sugar cane, bananas, garment “sweatshop” factories, mining and tourism); and, maintaining relations with and support from the U.S. military.

The repression, corruption and impunity in Honduras are not “Honduran” problems. They are problems of this so-called “international community” together with the Honduran elites. International economic and military relations are the lifeblood of the regime.  This is how power works.

Through our denunciations and activism, we have to make this “international community” take responsibility for its actions. If accountability is not brought to complicity of the military, economic and political backers of the Honduran regime, the repression, corruption and impunity will not stop.

By: Grahame Russell, teleSUR English‎, posted Oct 22, 2016

[SOURCE]