Tracker Pixel for Entry

A license to hate

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | March 2nd, 2017

Guardhouse 2 - by C.S. Hagen

FARGO - Militarized police armed with emergency declarations, beanbags and bullets, zip ties and presidential orders, have scattered most of the camps pitted against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but local hatred against the movement remains.

And it’s being promoted across the state, from rural farmer to urban politician.

As the activists’ camps consolidate to its last bastion, Sacred Stone Camp, where the movement originally began, no one has been killed. Many have been injured, and more than 750 have been arrested in what was once North Dakota’s tenth largest community.

“What this past year has exposed is the ugly underbelly of North Dakota,” Tom Asbridge, former Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in North Dakota, said. “We are as much or more racist and authoritarian than the Old South. It is inescapable. Our Christian values have not stood the scrutiny of our actions. I have been ashamed of my state in ways I never imagined I could be. Certainly our entire religious community must be challenged.”

Now, North Dakota political leaders, bolstered by the Trump Administration, are more concerned with falling oil prices and returning to a “whiter” America by toughening its stances on protesters and immigration policies. North Dakota State Legislature has proposed and recently passed an unholy trinity of draconian bills targeting protests -- a fundamental right protected by the First Amendment.

After passing the House, the Senate voted 33-12 in favor of a measure to criminalize adults wearing masks, and increasing penalties for “rioting” and trespassing were passed by wide margins. The bills were amended by the Senate and will return to the House for a final vote.

If the bills become law, protesters could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, which is double the current penalties. Protesters involved in smaller “riots” would be charged with a felony and possibly serve up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

NO DAPL - activists destroy dapl trucks on backwater bridge - photo by C.S. Hagen

A bill that would have essentially legalized murder by car against protesters was killed mid-February. In essence, the state is saying with these propositions that protesters and those helping activist camps are “terrorists” and “paid protesters.”

Other politicians and local media stations have targeted refugees, saying they carry tuberculosis, and they’re proposing laws meant to say that they’re not welcome in the Peace Garden State.

“You know what we’re sick and tired of?” Scott P. Garman of Unity-USA said in an editorial. “People who think minorities can be guilty of racism in the same way that members of our dominant society often can be.

“Racism is prejudice plus power. I know this stark reality may sound harsh, but keep in mind that this fact is not up for debate, it is a clear and real definition.”

Morton County’s militarized police force is something that Jennifer Cook of the ACLU of North Dakota is concerned about.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cook said. Using binoculars, she watched as police moved into the camps on February 22 and 23. “For a movement that has been largely nonviolent, it raises a lot of red flags.”

Behind the scenes, the ACLU pushed “very hard” throughout January to have law enforcement adopt different rules of engagement, she said. Cook believes that the ACLU and many other organizations involved in the controversy played an important role in curbing Morton County’s apparent appetite for “less-lethal force.”

“It’s a marked change from what it was before. I think the pressure from a lawsuit from us, a lawsuit from the Water Protector Legal Collective/National Lawyers Guild, I hope had an impact on that. And that was part of our goal was to have that change, because we certainly don’t think less-lethal weapons should be used in the manner that they had been used out at Standing Rock.”

The public outlash comes from fear, according to Shiyé Bidzííl, a Standing Rock Sioux activist, who has spent the winter months at the Oceti camps. Fear of the unknown, fear of things not understood, fear of change, which leaves few options how to react: learn or reject. On the day before the main camps were evicted, he took a moment to share his personal experiences during the long months since April 2016.

Police waiting by serpentine - photo by C.S. Hagen

“There is a difference in me, I have gained a more spiritual knowledge of myself, and what I’ve got to do,” Bidzííl said. “I found my purpose.”

He conquered his fears after two masked white men threatened to attack him outside a Bismarck hotel, he said: repression leads only to resistance.

“As long as a person can believe in the good and in the bad, it’s what empowers us to do greater in this life, to see all the evil in this world, and in a way this is evil and this is bad.” Bidzííl pointed to the police waiting along Highway 1806, overlooking the former Oceti Sakowin camp. “Again, invading our treaty territories, and not respecting our treaty laws and our rights as indigenous people here.”

Garman, of Unity-USA, said privilege is the power to be ignorant of one’s privilege, and it is the enemy of truth.

“The truth is this, in our 21st century, multicultural world, many people have a subconscious fear of losing their privileged status,” Garman said. “They usually don’t realize that this is the case, but deep down, somewhere in their heart of hearts, they know that the world is not fair, but this unfairness is especially true for minorities.”

And when such narratives are supported by those in power, the truth is lost, Bidzííl said.

“They try to come in and portray it as something different, and they think that is the story. The real stories are people like me, all these live streamers here, and all these warriors, and the true story is we’re here to protect the mother and her waters to flow freely for all the people to be free and to drink, to quench our thirst of what we want to do in this life.”

Dozens of police cars lined both sides of Highway 1806, closed off months before to the north. Some police are silent, leaving piles of sunflower seed shells on the pavement. Bureau of Indian Affairs agents cracked jokes about “DAPL Juice,” or “Warrior Juice,” a methamphetamine and Gatorade mix they say activists are known to drink. Police from cities like Fargo, Kenmare, and sheriff’s department across the state sat bored, watched dashboard clocks as the 2pm deadline approached. Behind the rows of sedans and SUVs, the North Dakota National Guard in their Humvees and Bearcats approached.

“There’s so much militarized force here, but that’s how much fear they have in them,” Bidzííl said. “They have to show their superior force to make them feel okay with themselves. In that way, we already won.”

Before signing off on a live feed on Sunday from an undisclosed location, Bidzííl thanked all the haters who “stalk” him online. “A message to all my haters, to all my trolls, I want to thank you. If it wasn’t for all the trolls out there we wouldn’t know all the pain and the hate.”

The camps may be mostly emptied, but according to activists, the fight is not over.

In early February, a masked activist released a video to Shaun King of the New York Daily News.

“They call us militant, they say we are violent, that we are not here in prayer… but there is prayer in our actions…and for the next seven generations we will be here for the water. We will not stop until the black snake is defeated. We shall remain until we are free in this world, or free from this world.”

Jennifer Cook believes that the hatred in North Dakota doesn’t have to be permanent.

“It can change. Tensions are high right now on both sides, and that much is very obvious. Is there some trickle-over in some communities that aren’t near Bismarck, or events that are happening near Bismarck? That very well may be.”

As the policy director for the ACLU of North Dakota, Cook is familiar with most of the incidents that have occurred lately in North Dakota. The best tool to combat hatred is education, she said. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

“It is essential to our democracy, even speech that we abhor, unless it is an imminent threat, like fighting words to someone, we need to be able to protect them. If you push that type of speech underground you won’t be able to see it. How do you know that it’s happening then? How do you know those feelings of racial tension are there?

“We want to bring it to light. We want to talk about it.”

Cultural competency training, community outreach programs, social cultural events, and advocacy to state and law enforcement leaders must occur in order help define what appropriate behavior is. When all else fails, the ACLU turns to litigation to help change state and federal regulations.

“We need to address issues as they pop up,” Cook said. “One of the best ways to handle these things is to not sweep it under the rug, bring it to light, and do it in a way that is educational to others.

“That’s one of the great things about the Standing Rock movement; it has given us an opportunity to talk about this.” 

Recently in:

CANNON BALL - Joint Terrorism Task Force agents contacted an Indiana activist days after he returned home from Standing Rock’s fight in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.Aaron Pollitt, 28, from Indiana, was charged…

The 48th Annual UND Writers Conference, “Citizen,” will take place March 22-24, 2017, at the Memorial Union on UND’s campus in Grand Forks. The Conference will feature authors/artists who contemplate what it means to be a…

Best Bets

​Hand to God

by HPR Staff

March 16-30, 7:30 - 9:30 PMThe Broadway Theatre Garage, 409 Broadway, FargoA dark comedy play about the God-fearing children of Cypress, Texas, who go to a local church and practice their Christian puppet ministry. But when one boy…

In the WNBA, was there ever a team like the 2011 Minnesota Lynx? People argue about it, but we say they’re the best. Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Bronson, Maya Moore, Taj McWilliams-Franklin.The Lynx drew first in…

How can we be so stupid?So here we go again with healthcare costs. Doctors once were paid pigs, chickens, and veggies for delivering babies. But now we have $10 Tylenols, $1,000-a-day pills, $10,000-a-day hospital rooms, $100,000…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

On a cold windy Tuesday night, we wandered into the new downtown establishment Magnolia’s. I was impressed that the new tenant had replaced the garish green exterior of the previous Kitchen Gremlin. A pink and white signage and…

Changes in the presidential administration are always bound to bring out artistic expression, whether supportive or critical. The recently inaugurated Trump administration is no different. It’s safe to say that the 45th President…

Cinema

​2017 Fargo Film Festival

by HPR Contributor

By Kaley Sievert Movies have this magic. An emotional pull that lures audiences into their universe. Filmgoers can get lost in stories painted in dazzling lights, electric colors and robust sounds. They mourn over the hardships of…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the North Dakota Governor’s Awards for the Arts. Recipients of this year’s awards include a wide range of different artists working in a variety of different methods of expression. A…

When I arrived at the practice space for Tin Roof Theatre in the Moorhead Center Mall for an interview last week the place was decked out with set pieces and stage flats, preparations for their upcoming show. Tin Roof founder…

Humor

What is acceptable comedy?

by HPR Contributor

By Bill LucasYou may wonder about the title. Whenever we hear someone’s opinion I think it is important to know a little about them. We all are offended by many things that are due to our experiences in life. We may be able to…

It was right around this time last year that news articles around the world were spreading fear about a looming hop crisis. Supposedly driven by an overwhelming influx of new brewery startups, as well as the American craft beer…

Shopping can be a stressful experience, especially while looking for healthier food items or trying to decide which supplements you need to add to your regimen. It can be mind-boggling for someone stepping onto the path to a…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“There is one thing, and only one thing, in which it is granted to you to be free in life, all else being beyond your power; that is to recognize and profess the truth.” – Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within YouThis is…