Dakota Access Pipeline Protest November 2nd: Catalyst on the Ground

At 5:30 a.m. on November 2nd 2016, a small group of men chopped, tied, and lay logs for a rickety wooden bridge on the Canon Ball River. Those men are Red Warriors, fighting for their right to clean water. Through the night they were building a bridge by which they could reach DAPL construction. The night would have been dark if it were not for the enormous stadium lights DAPL had constructed all along their construction site. This little bridge was built on Army Corps land. The bridge leads from the side of the river on which the main camp lies to the side of the river where DAPL is currently continuing construction.

At around 9 a.m., hundreds of other water protectors flocked to the bridge, which is only half a mile from the main camp. They were quickly met with a large police force in full riot gear. A lengthy protest ensued. Here’s an update, step-by-step.

We seem to have accomplished something today. Hundreds of cameras captured the obviously excessive force shown by the police. Facebook and Twitter have been exploding with sympathy and principled anger. But mainstream media continues to pay little attention. Those outlets that did, covered the day poorly. The Obama administration has delayed commitment to the cause and Hillary’s only comment was comically evasive. Morale is high this evening, but frustration is growing and the nights are getting colder.

I talked with Sage Robertson this afternoon. He was in the water on the frontline. At this confrontation, he said, “I was closer than I was the last time.” I asked if anything felt different about today and Robertson said that in one way, “it’s always the same thing. Us standing in front of them, with their guns and pepper spray.” But the protectors and the cops were in closer proximity today, and that let Robertson see something new: “they know it’s wrong,” he said. “We saw that on some of their faces today. That was new.”

Another protector told me today, “When a man is afraid, he brings a gun. A man with no fear has no need for a gun.” Robertson echoed this sentiment: “It was a real rush, but I wouldn’t say people were afraid. Everyone that goes to an action is willing to die. We don’t know if they have live rounds or what. One of them looked like he had a grenade launcher. I was thinking, wow, you need a grenade launcher for these people? What are you afraid of? But we were all together, so we weren’t afraid.”

We talked about the cops—what they might be thinking, what they’re consciences are telling them, how it must feel to be ordered to harm innocent people. “It makes me wonder,” Robertson said. “When they go to work, do they tell their families what they’re going to do?”

The future is on everyone’s minds. But Robertson is taking it slow: “It’s hard to say about the future. We live one day at a time. How we’re living at camp—that’s how we lived back then. Day by day, not knowing what lies ahead the next day. So that’s why I’m thankful for every day I wake up.”

I ask if there’s anything else. He says, “I just want to say I love my family back in Lake Lena, and I’ll be here. Here in Standing Rock.

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