Peaceful protests

FHS Student Demonstrates at Standing Rock Camp

Billie Firmin, Editor

On December 4, 2016, cheers erupted across the country when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would deny an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross sacred land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Jo- Ellen Darcy, an assistant secretary for civil works at the army, stated that after months of discussion with tribal leaders about the pipeline’s possible effect on their drinking water that it is “clear that there’s more work to do” regarding the pipeline’s route, according to NPR.

“The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore other alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” Darcy said.

Protests have been occurring at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota since April of this year, and recently protesters have been shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with ice water and attacked by guard dogs.

One of the thousands of protesters demonstrating was Cian Kennefick, a senior at FHS. He stayed in the camp for four days over Thanksgiving Break.

Prior to actively protesting, Kennefick participated in Direct Action, a program designed to prepare protesters for demonstrations,  to train for protesting at the camp.

“A lot of [training] involved learning how to be antagonized or attacked without responding,” Kennefick said.

The Standing Rock camp itself is “like a city of tents,” according to Kennefick.

“There are kitchens that resemble restaurants in a normal city, there’s a doctor’s office…it’s a little town,” he said.

True to their messages of peace, protestors create an atmosphere of love and prayer. Demonstrators refer to each other as “brother or sister,” and spiritual ceremonies are very common.

Although opponents of the pipeline are peaceful and tolerant, the police forces present there do not always behave the same way.

“On the night that my group was scheduled to roll into camp, that was the night on which a woman had her arm blown off by a flash grenade,” Kennefick said. “someone nearly lost an eye to a rubber bullet, and hundreds of people had chemical weapons used against them, so that was really horrific.”

But not all police Kennefick interacted with behaved violently. While driving, Kennefick and his group were stopped by a police barricade.

“We stopped together and we prayed for the police and their actions, but while we did that they were quite nice to us, and we were really heartened to see that,” he said.

Regarding the possible rerouting of the pipeline, Kennefick said he was “elated.”
“[However,] the Dakota pipeline officials have said expressly that they intend to go ahead, permission or no. So that means we haven’t won quite yet, it’s just a huge step.”

The right to peaceful protest is a key element of the First Amendment, and Kennefick believes that this right should be utilized whenever possible.

“Every person has a right to demonstrate nonviolently,” Kennefick said.

 

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