Police Decide Protesters Need Their Rights Defended, So They Arrest Them

Police Decide Protesters Need Their Rights Defended, So They Arrest Them

There was once a time in these United States when bosses, upon engaging in all manner of exploitation, would abuse their workers to such a degree, a strike would be planned in order to lobby for better treatment by either demanding new or recognizing existing rights for workers.

And in these times of mutual animosity between workers and those who profit off of their labor, as such action began to kick clouds of thick dust into the air, they could be seen. Shoulder to shoulder slinking over the horizon, the sun illuminating their presence from behind: the police had arrived! Justice would be served to its abusers last!

Indeed, justice would come; swift and hard as the swinging down of a truncheon onto those who dare challenge the private property rights of the moneyed class. Agitators would be targeted and hauled off. Many times police escalation would create violent situations. Ah, the good old days!

The 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike.
The 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike.

As this scenario indeed played out numerous times over stacked decades of time, having been reproduced all over the world, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the increased presence of police and the National Guard at the sites of the largest protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline devolved into an arrest of 20 protesters this week.

The protests themselves, which have only recently attained any mainstream media coverage, started in April. If you don’t know much about them, I can hardly blame you, because aside from throngs of independent alternative media outlets like It’s Going Down and Unicorn Riot, among many, many others doing great work, the protests against the pipeline’s construction have seen little light among the coverage of the major media hegemons.

The cause is clear and important: The Dakota Access Pipeline Company is in the process of developing land for construction of, yes, a pipeline which activists say threatens local water the local water supply provided by the Missouri River (which maps tell me is a significant waterway in North America). Construction also threatens areas which are culturally sensitive to the indigenous people of the area: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Most of the mainstream media attention given to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests came after Amy Goodman, reporting on scene for Democracy Now!, caught on camera the moment that the private security turned their attack dogs on nonviolent protesters.

(Photo by Tomas Alejo)
(Photo by Tomas Alejo)

As support for the Standing Rock Sioux has grown, with tribes from across the country declaring their support as well as activists traveling to North Dakota to partake in direct action and bring supplies, the footage caught prompted the activation of the North Dakota National Guard in order to monitor the protests.

This is occurring as the major media backdrop these days revolves around actions and reactions in relation to a wave of silent protest against police brutality during the national anthem during sporting events by professional, college and high school athletes throughout the nation. The backlash has been predictable. Cries of being “un-American” are heard here, other shouts of “if you don’t like it, leave” are heard there. And among the other criticisms, what Michael Harriot writing in Ebony succinctly identified as a “clumsy false equivalency about veterans, soldiers, freedom and respecting ‘Merica,” which of course has included police officers as defenders of order, safety and our rights.

With that charge, it should come as no surprise then that among the people desecrating sacred sites and putting an ecosystem at risk, and those who sic attack dogs on nonviolent protesters as well as the protesters themselves, the only people breaking any laws, and therefore subject to targeting and arrest, are the protesters. And some members of the press.

Twenty people were arrested this past week. They were charged with criminal trespass with the expected lack of irony that comes with the fact that the land is stolen to begin with. This theft legitimized by a piece of paper and one side having more guns than the other: the pillars of private property.

A wise man once said that protest beyond the law is not departure from democracy, it is absolutely essential to it. Many times, it has been the very process by which we have not only gained, but defended the rights we have — even against those whose very job we are told is to do so.

Derek Scarlino

Derek Scarlino is an activist, teacher and dashing thirtysomething who was born and raised in Utica, NY. He has lived and traveled overseas, and has contributed material to The Inquisitr, Bleacher Report and Groove Korea, as well as his own news/views site (loveandragemedia.org). He's no longer embarrassed to admit that he's a giant fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and currently resides in Utica with his dog Chewie.