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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: 'I'll See You at Standing Rock'

Insights + Opinion

Energy Transfer's lawbreaking comes at a critical juncture in human history as governments struggle to choose between oil company profits on the one hand, us people and the planet on the other. The juxtaposition of forces at Standing Rock is Orwellian; on one side are the Sioux and their supporters.

The Sioux have been highly disciplined about maintaining the respectful and non-violent character of their demonstration. Tribal committees train and screen protesters and restrict access to the protest sites to those who can be trusted to maintain prayerful and peaceful protest in the face of ferocious police violence. These demonstrations mainly consist of quiet prayer ceremonies.

Deployed against them is an out of control police force and DAPL's army of private security guards. The unhinged fury of their attacks is reminiscent of the police violence against southern civil rights demonstrators in the 1960's. To make way for an outlaw company, highly militarized police and private security forces have unleashed the awesome military might of state police power against law abiding American citizens. The police and corporate security brigades appear to be testing a suite of high-tech and often savage, crowd control equipment now in the possession of our militarized police forces.

On a recent trip to Standing Rock, I saw truck mounted facial recognition equipment tagging protestors from surrounding hilltops. I experienced the jarring barrage of acoustic cannons. The state and private security forces deployed water cannons against protesters in sub-freezing weather endangering their lives, tear gas bombs, pepper spray, flash bang grenades which might cost one protester her arm, and plastic bullets which felled a Sioux elder the day I left. Largely out of sight of the national press, the police employ terror tactics and behave like savage animals.

Visiting Standing Rock.

The Obama administration has the power to end this conflict, overnight, simply by declaring that the pipeline company comply with existing federal law and complete an environmental impact statement before DAPL is allowed to proceed.

The company dreads this outcome; an EIS would require Energy Transfer Partners to disclose the true cost and benefits of its project. The American people would see, through all the smoke and mirrors, that this project is a 1,200-mile boondoggle designed to allow billionaire investors like Donald Trump to make themselves richer by impoverishing other Americans.

The company's claims to be a job creator will wither in the daylight. Like the Keystone XL pipeline, DAPL is unlikely to produce even 100 long term jobs while jeopardizing the water supply for 18 million people and the breadbasket of American food production.

Despite its contrary denials to the public and regulators, DAPL has admitted privately that its oil will be shipped to Asia where it will lower manufacturing costs for America's foreign competitors and aggravate climate chaos. If Obama were to order an Environmental Impact Statement, our incoming president, Donald Trump, would be powerless to reverse that determination. The question now is: Will Obama act?

In the meantime, Americans who care about freedom and justice are flocking to Standing Rock to support the Sioux, just as justice loving Americans of an earlier generation went to Selma, to Jackson and to Delano.

"I'll see you at Standing Rock" has become the battle cry for Americans who still share an idealistic vision for our country.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is president of Waterkeeper Alliance and former editor of Indian Country Today—the largest newspaper serving the Sioux and Native American communities.

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