Violence Loses

Like so many with a Native American heritage I have been watching the protests at Standing Rock, trying to figure out which side of the issue I am on. I find I can not automatically support the tribal side of this as some of my relatives have, the issue is not so clear cut. I have been reading both sides to see where the issue lies.

The incident has much in parallel with the issues here on our mountain. Native people protesting a project that takes place on a purported sacred site. There is also the element of environmentalism in protesting an oil pipeline, and entirely different issue than a clean project like an observatory.

This week’s violent episode has me asking questions. How did this happen? What happened. The protest side has been loudly proclaiming that security guards just attacked them with pepper spray and dogs. They play up the injuries, including some to a child.

I have problems with the story, something sounded wrong from the first, it just does not ring true. Professional security firms do not do this… It looks bad. They know the media is watching, they know the protesters are filming everything. An unprovoked attack reflects badly on them and their employer. Why would they do what they are accused of doing?

The protesters own videos answer these questions… The attack was very much provoked.

The attackers were the protesters, not the guards. This was self defense.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, December 11, 1964

The videos clearly show a mob. Yes, I will call it a mob as that is what it was. People who had worked up a great deal of anger and were venting that anger in a very noisy and direct way.

While that anger may be justified, the result was not. They advance on the security guards who are holding a very thin line between the protesters and the pipeline workers. The protesters are yelling, throwing objects (What? Rocks probably), and hitting at the dogs with sticks. I was actually amazed at how restrained the security personnel were when faced with an extraordinarily scary situation, outnumbered ten to one.

Really? Watch the videos…

Keep in mind that these videos are posted by the protesters. You can click the FaceBook icons in the corner of the video to read the original pages, and read the comments.

This is not how you do it.

This sort of event threatens to discredit your entire movement no matter how you try to spin the events in the press and on social media. The videos from both sides are (or will be) available for watching.

The tribes were winning, their protest having an effect in the press and more likely in the courts in the coming weeks. This sort of mob violence can waste all of that effort in one moment whatever the right or wrong of the issue.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

8 thoughts on “Violence Loses”

  1. Thanks, Andrew, for your even-handed description of recent violence at protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    When I first saw the videos posted by protesters, I had similar thoughts as you, that the protesters were, basically, the aggressors and that the videos seemed more incriminatory against the protest movement than anything else. If protesters had peacefully climbed over the fence, walked out into the field and just stood in front of the bulldozers to stop construction work and security had sprayed them with mace and allowed their dogs to attack them, then it would’ve been a clear win for the protesters, but that’s not what happened. It goes both ways, though. If the contractor and its security people weren’t looking for a physical fight, then why did they give their guards pepper spray and vicious dogs with which to attack the protesters? If unarmed security guards had been overwhelmed by aggressive protesters, I think it would be more clear who was right and who was wrong.

    Thankfully, we haven’t seen any comparable violence on Maunakea. As far as I know, the protests on Maunakea have all been peaceful. UH, TMT security and even DOCARE and HPD have all shown restraint and not resorted to physical violence against the protesters. We should all be grateful that we live in Hawaii where people really are different.

    1. First off, Andrew, thanks for posting this. Great read.

      In response as to why a security company arms its employees with pepper spray and dogs (notice how there are no firearms, but they are indeed wearing protective vests), it’s a security contractor’s job to provide security to whatever it is they are protecting. If anything, I commend the company for choosing not to arm its contractors with firearms or tasers. The dogs looked well trained and the handlers were simply holding a line even when they and their dogs were being stabbed with flagpoles (second video, about a minute in).

      Anyway, I don’t necessarily support the pipeline but not because I’m a Hawaiian and they’re Sioux and we share some sort of “bond”. But I definitely support the protesters a fair slight less now. I, personally, feel bad for the people just doing their jobs.

      1. Thanks. I do not see it as a question of support or non-support for the pipeline opposition. Rather I had issues with the behavior of the protesters seen in these videos. They instigated this incident of violence, one that may actually harm their cause.

  2. As your title says, Andrew, Violence Loses. To the extent that protesters can keep their movement nonviolent, they will have a better chance of being heard and possibly winning. Images showing protesters being physically aggressive do more harm to their cause than good.

    On the other hand, private security guards have no more right to use physical force than do regular citizens. Images in the media of DAPL’s security guards using mace and attack dogs against unarmed protesters will turn public opinion against the pipeline. It works both ways.

    North Dakota is an open carry state. All of the protesters could have legally taken their rifles with them to the protest, but to their credit, they chose to go unarmed. That’s why when they were attacked by private security guards wielding mace and vicious dogs, all they had with them to defend themselves was what they happened to be carrying in their hands at the time, which was flag poles and signs. I’m pretty sure, anyone who is getting attacked by a dog will use whatever means available to defend himself.

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for the security guards. Nobody forced them to attack unarmed protesters, including pregnant women and little kids, with vicious dogs and pepper spray. Anyone who is willing to do that kind of “work” deserves whatever he gets.

  3. So the protestors “instigated” the DAPLs decision to move their tractors miles off the project to bulldoze an area where evidence was submitted just a day before claiming said area as sacred and an area with many burials and cultural sites? Instigated the use of private security/mercenaries with trained dogs and pepper spray?

    Sounds an awful lot like “whitesplaining” to me

    1. Hard to evaluate the claims from either side here…

      There has been no good evidence that any actual sacred sites got bulldozed, no photos, nothing. Odd when you consider just about every protester carries a cell phone and such photos would be plastered far and wide by the protesters if they had such. This is an area in the path that has seen several archaeological surveys and follows the route of an existing gas pipeline. I am fully aware that such sites may not be easy to recognize, but I have enough practical experience with similar ancient sites that at least something should be visible. Apparently the state archaeologist is going to evaluate the area (again) and document these claims, I have seen no results of this as of yet.

      On the other side DAPL claims the work was scheduled weeks before, but there is likewise no good evidence for this as these would have been internal documents and not necessarily publicly available. I agree that work on the holiday weekend seems suspicious.

      What is clear is that protesters crashed a fence, invaded the work site, and instigated the violence. This cannot be argued as it is well documented and the videos are openly available published by the protesters themselves. Regardless of the claims on either side I can not in any way excuse this action. Watch them again, the protesters are clearly pushing the guards while throwing objects and hitting the dogs. Attacking the work site and then crying foul, this is just dishonorable.

  4. Deliberately destroying sacred sites and forcing an oil pipeline over the objections and pleas of thousands of indigenous peoples is the violence I recognize occurring at Standing Rock. Ask Tm Mentz and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe if thats arguable or not.

    Yes, hard to evaluate the claims, being thousands of miles and hundred of years of oppression removed from the issue. But apparently not so hard that you can chime in and wag your finger at it.

    1. Not so removed as you might think. My tribe (Shoalwater Bay) has declared support for the protest and I have several relatives aiding the protests. I have no argument with the protesters, they have a valid points to be made. I have been watching the issue quite closely for several months before the latest news, it has been the subject of discussion among friends and relatives. It is the use of violence and the spinning of the news that I found abhorrent enough to post on. It struck me as a form of betrayal by those I might otherwise support.

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