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Updated: 8 hours 23 min ago

Blockade by Pipeline Opponents Disrupts Work Day at FERC

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 13:01
Two fracking well “derricks” and chanting protesters block First St. at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission./Photo by Anne Meador

Security at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seemed caught unawares Monday morning when anti-pipeline activists blockaded the staff parking garage at the agency headquarters. In the middle of First Street, two people climbed up and perched high on bamboo structures made to resemble hydraulic fracking well derricks. FERC is responsible for approving or denying proposed interstate gas pipelines, most of them supplied by fracking wells.

“FERC greenlights all energy projects, paying no mind to how dirty or unsafe they are to the climate or community,” said derrick-sitter Jessica Sunflower Rechtschaffer of New York City. “We erected these towers in front of FERC to show how these towers are being placed all over the USA, disrupting people, their homes livelihoods and environment.”

The FERC critics from Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) and other groups, numbering about two dozen, also unfurled a long banner in front of the main entrance, blocking it as well. They say FERC should no longer be “a rubber stamping agency” and instead dedicate itself to facilitating “a just transition off fossil fuels.”

FERC has long been accused of having a “cozy relationship” with industry with commissioners and staff enjoying a revolving door to and from gas industry jobs. Critics also say that it assists gas companies in breaking up projects into smaller ones which will more easily obtain approval, a practice known as segmentation. Meanwhile, communities must grapple with a complex and time-consuming permit process directed toward what seems like a predetermined outcome. FERC has also been accused of “cherry-picking” data to force pipelines through low-income areas and communities of color.

There has been a sustained initiative to draw attention to the broad impact of the agency’s work, as gas companies seize private property and dig up forests, streams and mountaintops with a massive expansion of pipeline networks. For more than four years, BXE has held similar protests at FERC headquarters and disrupted the Commission’s monthly public meetings. Their efforts may be paying off.

“We’re beginning to see cracks between the FERC commissioners,” derrick-sitter Drew Hudson of North Carolina said, pointing out that earlier this month, Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick voted to vacate Mountain Valley Pipeline’s permit.

FERC recently embarked on a review of the process governing its permit approvals. There are indications that Democrats LaFleur and Glick are demanding analysis of the climate impacts of pipelines, which would be in accordance with a recent court ruling. But the three Republican commissioners want to shorten the timeline for permit applications and streamline any evaluation.

Swaying only the two Democrats on the Commission may not be enough to achieve BXE’s goal of turning FERC into an agency willing to facilitate a transition to renewable energy. “We need at least three and preferably all five commissioners on board,” Hudson said.

While communities continue to fight FERC, vast numbers of people around the country are affected or potentially affected by the pipelines it approves. An independent safety analysis ordered by Governor Cuomo just released by the New York Department of Public Service finds that FERC was aware that the Spectra Algonquin Pipeline involves unacceptable risks when it approved it in March 2015, according to Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy Project. The Algonquin Pipeline runs only 100 feet from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant located 30 miles north of New York City.

“This agency is responsible of saying yes to this pipeline knowing that it was unsafe,” Fraczek, who was protesting at FERC on Monday, said. “It’s putting a population of 25 million at risk. If this pipeline blows up next to Indian Point, it’s game over for the metropolitan New York City area.”

Click to view slideshow.

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Thousands Marching with Poor People’s Campaign Prevented from Entering Capitol Grounds

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 21:07

Washington, DC — Thousands of people protesting systemic racism and poverty marched to the Capitol on Saturday but were barred from entering the grounds by U.S. Capitol Police. A long line of officers blocked the South Lawn and halted a march organized by the Poor People’s Campaign–a revival of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s movement 50 years ago—at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

Rev. William Barber and Rev. Jesse Jackson pressed police to allow them to proceed to the Capitol Lawn and conclude their march with the delivery of petitions demanding Congress allocate resources for the poor and struggling workers. U.S. Capitol Police Captain John Erickson, however, refused on the grounds that a large group needed a permit to demonstrate. An agreement was eventually worked out for petition boxes to be carried by individuals one at a time to the Capitol steps.

Rev. William Barber (c) with Rev. Jesse Jackson (to his right) leads the Poor People’s Campaign march to the U.S. Capitol

Barber and Jackson gathered the crowd in prayer. “There is no black and white. We’re all precious in God’s sight,” Jackson said, leading the others in a call-and-response. He concluded with “We’ll all remember in November,” referring to the midterm elections.

The march wrapped up 40 days of protests, rallies and civil disobedience actions in Washington, DC and around the country. Many prominent civil rights activists took part, some of whom were founding members the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.

Rev. Barber reviewed the victories of the campaign so far, saying it had been the goal to shift the narrative and get the attention of the international community. They had engaged in simultaneous civil disobedience in 40 states, registered voters in poor communities and put issues on the record at a hearing in Congress. The campaign will continue as a multi-year organizing and get-out-the-vote effort.

“We know how to fight, and we’re committed to do it,” said Rev. Barber. “I got a feeling everything’s going to be all right, you know Martin’s done told us,” Rev. Barber sang with the crowd.

Drawing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Rev. Barber outlined actions Poor Peoples Campaign would pursue in the coming months. “We learned from our non-violence training that you only have the authority to shut it down when you have given your adversary clear understanding of what you want, why you want it, and you’ve attempted to give them the opportunity,” he said.

He was critical of police for not letting them deliver their demands to Congress. “We remember this month [June 1968] when they tried to kill the Poor People’s Campaign, snatched them away, ran them out even after they had permits. Now today they won’t even give you a permit to be on the mall,” he said.

Rev. William Barber and Rev. Jesse Jackson confer at U.S. Capitol as Capitol Police block the marchers from entering Capitol grounds.

A huge three-hour rally on the National Mall preceded the march. The severe humidity affected many of the older civil rights leaders. Rev. Barber appeared to suffer as he walked behind the lead banner, and several people offered him assistance in walking.

Actor Danny Glover was also among civil rights leaders walking with the lead banner. “We see the contradictions with this administration all the time. Now we have to gather a mass mobilization, a real mass movement to change and that’s got to take place in many ways,” he said. He urged anyone feeling discouraged to keep going. “When you hear the dogs barking, keep going. When you think they’re going to catch you, keep going,” he said, drawing from the words of Harriet Tubman.

The original Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 was a march of nine caravans from different cities to Washington, DC. Once they arrived, they set up Resurrection City, a tent area for permitted tent city of homeless on the National Mall. It was led by Rev. William Abernathy who took on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision after he was assassinated in April of that year.

Click to view slideshow.

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Resurrection City II Evicted From Dupont Circle Park

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 13:41

Washington, DC — U.S. Park Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers forced a protest encampment at Dupont Circle to disband Monday evening. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign set up the camp, which they called Resurrection City II, on Saturday to bring attention to worsening conditions experienced by poor people and the homeless. They had obtained a permit from the National Park Service to be in the park until Wednesday.

Police began gathering on the outskirts of the park in the upscale neighborhood of Dupont Circle around 7:00 pm but gave no prior warning to organizers that they would soon evict them. No one was arrested, but police confiscated tents and bedding. About 40 people staying in the park, many of them veterans as well as homeless, took refuge at a nearby church on 16th Street.

Police cited “noise complaints, permanent structures and obstruction of signs” as reasons to evict them and seize property, according to a PPECHR press release.

Cheri Honkala protests the eviction of Resurrection City as a violation of 1st Amendment rights/Screenshot Mark Apolloa FB Live

PPEHRC had set up a stage for outreach to the public to tell about their first hand experiences with poverty and homelessness in urban neighborhoods. They had also scheduled a series of punk and rap groups to perform original venues to attract hundreds each day to hear their stories.

The group had walked from the Kensington district of Philadelphia to Washington, DC over a 10-day period. They had named their occupation Resurrection City II, commemorating the original Poor Peoples Campaign March organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years ago. The original march of 1968 walked from Baltimore to Washington and formed Resurrection City on the National Mall.

Kensington is the poorest district of Philadelphia and one of the poorest per capita neighborhoods in the U.S. with more than 60% of its population either homeless, unemployed, receiving public assistance, or suffering from addiction.

Cheri Honkala, co-director and organizer of the Poor People’s March, had been released from custody earlier in the day after she was arrested for refusing to leave a sit-in at the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters. No sooner had she been released for trespassing than she was dealing with over 20 police officers from the National Park Service and DC Metropolitan Police.

Many first time activists took part in the Poor People’s March who had never participated in any protest activity before. They included poor and homeless families, veterans, disabled persons, those with addictions, newly returned citizens, and clergy.

A band plays at Resurrection City before police move in to evict Monday evening/Photo by John Zangas

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Homeless Advocate Wouldn’t Leave HUD, So Police Dragged Her Out

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 16:46
Dheri Honkala is taken from the lobby of HUD by Federal Protective Service officers/Screenshot from PPEHCR video

An advocate for the poor and homeless was arrested today at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) while attempting to speak with Secretary Ben Carson.

Federal Protective Services police took Cheri Honkala into custody Monday afternoon when she refused to leave the lobby of the HUD building.

“All I wanted is a meeting on behalf of poor, homeless families across the entire country,” she said as police pulled her toward a vehicle. “Poor people deserve to eat. One fucking meeting!”

The arrest took place during a protest at HUD organized by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, which has set up an encampment in Dupont Circle. Honkala was Jill Stein’s running mate and the Green Party candidate for vice president in the 2012 election.

Carson announced a plan in April that would raise rents for those receiving federal housing assistance by 20 percent, according to an analysis just released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The proposal would affect 2 million households immediately and an additional 2 million in the next six years.

Carson says reducing assistance will force the poor into the workforce and give them a path to self-sufficiency. “It’s our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

Honkala and about fifty others with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign had just arrived in Washington on Saturday after walking for ten days from Philadelphia. They began their walk in Kensington, the poorest district in Philadelphia, on June 2, the 50th anniversary of the original walk led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Baltimore to Washington in 1968.

They set up camp in Dupont Circle, in the midst of some the most costly properties with the highest rents in the District. Resurrection City II, as they call it, will remain indefinitely and serve as their base of operations for protest actions like the one at HUD today. They hope to highlight deteriorating economic conditions, rampant homelessness, hunger, job displacement, drug addiction and rising debt among the working class.

The new occupants of Resurrection City are advocating for themselves as poor Americans. Many of them are homeless and have never done anything like this before. Part of their message is that in order for meaningful progress in any movement, it must be led by those affected, according to Rev. Bruce Wright. “Any movement to end poverty must be led by poor people, homeless people, unemployed people and people impacted by it,” he said.

After 50 marchers arrived in Washington, they began to set up Resurrection City II/Photo by John Zangas

Rev. Wright was critical of Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, which has been underwritten by big monied interests such as the Ford Foundation. “No disrespect to him, he’s a good man, but I think he’s been co-opted by big money,” Rev. Wright said, adding that PPEHRC does not accept corporate sponsorships, big money donations or grants.

“Poor people are the ones that need to be heard,” said Wright. “Unless you have been homeless, unless you’ve been poor, unless you’ve experienced poverty, you have no right to dictate to poor people how their change should happen,” Wright said.

Leaders of large foundations and the Democratic National Committee are top-down organizations and want to take control, Wright said. This used against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, when leaders from political parties tried to intervene in his campaign. “They tried to co-opt Dr. King and tell him don’t say anything because [President] Johnson is doing all this for the poor, and he said ‘I can’t not say anything, this isn’t about political parties.’”

Organizers are asking for support at Resurrection City II, including food, water, medical supplies, and moral support. They are also requesting donations to help with transportation costs. The plan to stay in Dupont Circle at least a week or longer if hey can generate the support needed.

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More Acquittals, Dropped Charges in Inauguration Protesters’ Trials

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 18:27
Police form a line at 13th & K Streets NW as Inauguration Day protests dragged into the afternoon. They deployed concussion grenades and mace. Photo: John Zangas

Washington, DC–A defendant in the Inauguration Day protest trials was found not guilty by jury trial on Monday. Casey Webber was acquitted of all felony and misdemeanor charges against him stemming from the mass-arrests of 230 protesters during January 20 protests. The trials have come to be known as the J20 trials.

Three other defendants are still waiting jury verdicts in the trial, which began on May 14. The jury told Judge Katherine Knowles on Tuesday, that they were deadlocked but she returned them to the jury room until they reached verdicts.

Webber said that though his trial was over and has resulted in a positive personal outcome, he did not feel any relief due to seeing the three other defendants in his trial anguishing over the possible outcome. He also said he could not rest and would continue to support another 40 defendants who were awaiting trials.

The defendants faced a possible 60 years in prison for the charges of malicious destruction of property, conspiracy to riot, inciting a riot, rioting, and assaulting a police officer.

The May 14 trial was the second that had gone to a jury. Another J20 trial of six defendants in December of last year resulted in acquittals of each of six defendants for a total of 42 charges. Another 129 defendants had their charges dropped in January 2018 shortly after the first acquittals.

Webber said that there was no direct evidence admitted by the U.S. Attorney’s office that linked any of the defendants to any of the charges they faced.

Key Exculpatory Evidence Withheld From Defense

The U.S. District Attorney was forced to drop all charges in another J20 trial against 6 other defendants which had been set to begin on Monday, June 4. There were no grounds to pursue felony charges in the trial when it came to light that Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff withheld key evidence from defense attorneys.

District of Columbia Superior Court, Chief Judge Robert E. Morin had been hearing pretrial motions in the June 4 trial in regard to exculpatory evidence that Kerkhoff had in her possession. The key evidence in question was a video clip the prosecution was using to support felony charges against all defendants.

The Inauguration Day protests lasted the entire day and involved thousands of protesters throughout the downtown area. Photo: John Zangas

Defense attorneys argued the felony charges of conspiracy to riot and inciting a riot were not valid since they had not been provided an uncut version of the video during discovery. The defense team also learned from an email sent by the US Attorney’s office to Judge Morin that the Project Veritas evidence should have included an additional 65 videos and 4 audio recordings that had been withheld from defense during discovery. The videos had been also been recorded and provided to DC police by conservative media group Project Veritas, which had produced the videos when it infiltrated and secretly recorded Dissent J20 planning meetings.

Dissent J20 was an umbrella organization with which other protest groups coordinated to disrupt the Inauguration Day parade. On Inauguration Day, hundreds of police moved against a breakaway group of protesters and mass-arrested 230 of them, including journalists, photographers and independent media live-streamers.

Defendants in the May 14 trial have already been subjected to admission of the tainted Veritas Project video in their trial. Judge Katherine Knowles of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is presiding in this jury trial and had already admitted into evidence the edited Project Veritas video. It is not certain what the final outcome of this trial will be for the three remaining defendants but it gives credence to a strong defense on appeal in the event of conviction based on omitted exculpatory evidence.

Project Veritas Video Evidence Backfired Against Prosecutors

Project Veritas subsequently produced their heavily edited video from recordings of the Dissent J20 planning meetings and released it the day before the J20 protests in order to discredit the protesters. The video was produced to cast planners as endorsing violence during the Inauguration Day parade. Project Veritas provided the heavily edited video to Detective Pemberton, who then provided it the U.S. Attorney’s office. The video formed a basis for felony inciting riot and conspiracy to riot charges against all 230 defendants in the J20 trials.

Defense attorneys filed additional motions for dismissal of the felony charges once they discovered that the Project Veritas videographer could be heard saying that he believed the J20 planners did not know of a conspiracy during the J20 protests.

Defense attorneys argued the U.S. Attorneys office should have provided a copy of the omitted video clip but instead deliberately withheld it and in so doing, violated a foundational principle of due process known as the Brady rule. This legal procedure is compulsory during the discovery phase of pretrial procedures. The Brady rule requires prosecutors to share materially exculpatory evidence with the defense before an actual jury trial begins.

The defense attorneys argued that by not adhering to this legal requirement, the U.S. Attorney’s office denied defendants due process under the law. The Brady rule came out of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1963, which provided defense attorneys access to evidence prosecutors discover during the course of an investigation, which may assist the defendants in their case.

Chief Judge Sanctions Prosecutor

Judge Morin was said to have been incredulous at the revelation of the prosecutor’s multiple violations of the Brady rule. Judge Morin queried the stand-in prosecutor during the June 4 pretrial motions but the prosecutor could not answer for Assistant Kerkhoff because she was at that time prosecuting the ongoing May 14 J20 trial.

Judge Morin sanctioned Kerkhoff as a result of the Brady rule violations, thereby prohibited her from submitting any additional evidence in the course of future J20 trials, further weakening the U.S. Attorney’s ability to secure J20 trial convictions.

It is not yet clear which party edited the critical portion of the video clip. Whether it was Project Veritas, the police, or the U.S. District Attorney’s office, real damage has been done to the credibility and handling of the trials by the prosecution.

Inauguration Day protesters not being arrested gather at 13th & K Streets and confronted police while a block away more police kettled 230 protesters. Photo: John Zangas

The conservative Project Veritas media organization has previously been involved in a series of clandestine video traps. In operations against ACORN and Planned Parenthood, operatives penetrated business offices of these groups unbeknownst to them and recorded discussions which were later edited. The videos were then released to the public in an attempt to discredit the organizations.

The Project Veritas sting methods used against Planned Parenthood and ACORN have now also played a role in ensnaring the U.S. Attorney’s office in what is turning out at best to be chaotic records of trials.

Webber was pensive concerning the behavior of prosecutors and police and likened the justice system to a design to work exactly as it did. “The evidence was problematic from the beginning,” he said. “The charges were based on conjecture and there was never any material evidence presented on any person,” he said.

Webber believes the conduct of the prosecution was “closer to political persecution than criminal prosecution.” He also stated that the approach was to over dramatize the accusations so people would take pleas. “The prosecution obstructed evidence from defense council over the threat of built up charges for minor offenses,” he said.

Webber also pointed out the cost to the defendants and their families as well as the taxpayers. “The prosecution has cost the taxpayers millions in these cases,” he said.

Webber was found not guilty on all counts but he believes he likely would not have faced the charges had the defense attorneys been provided the full Veritas Project video during disclosure. Webber’s trial was unique in that he was seen by prosecutors as a prime Dissent J20 organizer who at the time worked as an officer for Industrial Workers of the World Union. He had since vacated his position because of the trial but remained a member of IWW.

More Defendants Have Charges Dropped

The defendants in the third trial (June 4) have had felony charges dropped with prejudice. This means the U.S. Attorney’s office cannot refile these charges against them. They will not face retrial on any of the felony or misdemeanor counts dismissed with prejudice.

Concurrently another set of dismissals were issued Monday, June 4 for another J20 trial which began pre-hearing motions on May 29. Chief Judge Morin had determined the Brady violations were so severe that he would not let the trial proceed.

As a sidebar to the unfolding court chaos under the watch of the Judge Morin and at the hands of U.S. Attorney’s office and Assistant Prosecutor Kerkhoff, a police officer who testified at the May 14 trial as a witness against J20 defendants, wore a shirt in the courtroom a few minutes after he testified. DC police officer William Chapman had fashioned a silk-screened shirt emblazoned with ‘Police Brutality…or doing what their parents should have,’ along with an image of a police baton and handcuffs. He plainly wore the shirt and message around the courthouse until he was seen leaving with Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerkhoff.

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Sex Workers Rally for Labor Rights on International Whores’ Day

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 15:13

Washington, DC–Sex workers rallied for equal rights on Saturday at Eastern Market, an upscale neighborhood near the U.S. Capitol. They demanded DC Council officially recognize them with workers’ protections and pass a bill to decriminalize sex work.

About 75 attended the rally, including allies and supporters. Speakers related their experiences and explained how equality and legal recognition would help protect them. The rallies came amidst an uptick of violent attacks against sex workers in the nation’s capital and across the country.

Shareese Mone, an advocate with End Violence Against Sex Workers, December 17, said that sex workers included a broad range of folx who were human and deserved respect like everyone else. “Today we’re celebrating not only the lives of the movement but the lives that were taken through sex work,” they said.

Mone also spoke about the economic justice of recognizing sex workers and giving them labor rights. “Sex work is a job. It is a hard job that not everybody wants to take, but some of us have to survive off it,” they said.

Photo by DC News Media

Mone also pointed out that trans sex workers were also a part of the community and was the smallest minority but also deserved to live lives like everyone else. “We have dreams and goals and all we are asking for is to be respected,” they said.

Advocates held a moment of silence to remember sex workers who had been slain while earning a living. They also danced to celebrate their growing movement and new legislative initiatives to legitimize sex workers in the labor force.

The advocates were joined by DC Council member David Grosso, who supports their efforts at gaining workers status in the District. “I’m out to show my support for decriminalization of sex work,” he said.

Grosso introduced a bill promoting sex workers rights last year in the DC Council. “I’m seeing some movement from my colleagues and the city,” he said.

Sex worker advocates are also urging an end to SESTA and FOSTA, bills passed by Congress in March targeting online sex worker communities. These communities were formed to help protect workers and are essential for their online well-being in the digital age, according to Siouxsie Q. James, Director of Policy and Industry Relations, Free Speech Coalition.

A similar rally for sex workers’ rights was held outside the legendary Stonewall nightclub in New York City and drew hundreds. International Whores Day, also know as Sex Worker’s Rights Day is celebrated at the beginning of June, which is also the start of LGBTQ Pride month.

Click to view slideshow.

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Senate Votes to Restore Net Neutrality Rules

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 09:26
Kevin Zeese protests near Commissioner Ajit Pai’s home in May 2017./Photo by Anne Meador

Washington, DC–The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to reject an FCC rule change that would end Net Neutrality. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai led the charge last year to strip protections which require Internet Service Providers to treat all web traffic equally.

The 4-1 FCC vote last December effectively privatized the Internet by allowing Big Telecoms to charge some customers more for privileged access. Over the last several years, Internet watchdogs groups and large services such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Google have enlisted the public to wage a ferocious war to preserve Net Neutrality.

The Senate exercised its power under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reinstate any regulation changed by a government agency. By passing the Senate resolution, Democrats will force the issue into the House of Representatives, where it has less favorable prospects. About 160 members of Congress, mostly Democrats, have pledged their support. The resolution requires 218 House votes to pass. The vote is scheduled for June 11.

Recently, in a bombshell revelation, documents show that giant telecom AT&T paid $600,000 to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen for “access” to the administration on issues of interest to AT&T. Soon after, Commissioner Pai met with an AT&T executive lobbyist, leading to accusations of corruption.

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ADAPT Holds Annual Fun Run for Disability Rights and Independent Living

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 20:43

Washington, DC–Disability rights organization ADAPT held its 13th annual Fun Run in Spirit of Justice Park near the U.S. Capitol on Mother’s Day. Several hundred people took part in the event, which kicked off its Week of Action in Washington. Nearly $3,000 was raised to support ADAPT programs. Fun Run participants, who had solicited sponsors, walked or rolled laps around the paved border of the park.

On the way to the starting point for the run, they formed a long procession of wheelchairs from Federal Plaza along Congressional office buildings. “Our homes, not nursing homes!” they chanted, and “Down with nursing homes, up with attendant care!” as they made their way to the park.

ADAPT is making the case that allowing the disabled in their homes and communities makes more sense than placing them in nursing homes. It not only saves money, it permits them to continue living more fruitful and productive lives.

Tony Brooks of the Philadelphia chapter of ADAPT said that he was able to remain in his community because of attendant care. “I lived in a nursing home, and I did not like it, so I had to move out. But getting to move out was a struggle because there was a political side,” said Brooks. “Any person with a physical disability, the first option is going to a nursing institution, which is not right. We can live in the community independently with a PC, which is much cheaper,” he said.

The Fun Run was also a moment to reflect on two women champions of the disability rights community who had recently passed away. Barbara Toomer, 88, was ADAPT’s most senior warrior. Arrested more than 35 times, she was instrumental in getting lifts placed on buses and getting businesses and restaurants into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Another honoree was Babs Johnson, who created the ADAPT flag. It resembles an American flag with stars arranged in the shape of a person in a wheelchair, the National ADAPT logo. She was credited with being a foundational organizer for ADAPT as well as a feminist who had few words but instead let her actions speak for her. She also worked on the bus life initiative and provided extensive logistical support to ADAPT activists.

ADAPT is presently working to pass the Disability Integration Act, civil rights legislation intended to protect those forced to live in institutions due to their need for long-term service and support.

Click to view slideshow.

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“NRA Enables Domestic Terrorism” Projection Lights Up Trump Hotel Before Conference

Sun, 05/06/2018 - 20:24

Washington, DC–Activists lit up Trump International Hotel with messages critical of the National Rifle Association lobby on Thursday night. The light show was timed to draw negative attention to the NRA annual conference being held in Dallas, Texas on Friday. Activists projected giant memes across the iconic bell tower of the hotel, reading, “The NRA paid Congress $2,401,020 For Inaction” – “Take Democracy Back” and “NRA Enables Domestic Terrorism.” Other light images included memes of an AR-15 and a skull and crossbones.

Trump Hotel security called police and within minutes DC police responded and ordered the activists to turn off the projector or face arrest. Police claimed the activists had no permit or permission to be on “private property” despite the equipment being staged on the sidewalk far from the building. Activists refused to leave and invoked their first amendment right to free expression. They also claimed they were in fact on a public sidewalk and needed no permit.

Hotel security stood silently in the background while police and activists discussed whether a permit was required and whether the light projector was staged on private property.

A few minutes later, CODEPINK: Women for Peace activists arrived. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the Woman’s peace group and Tighe Barry, a long-time member of the group, weighed in on the dispute. With extensive knowledge of the federal laws, rules and local statutes governing permits and protests, Berry showed on the sidewalk where the U.S. Government jurisdiction separates the DC jurisdiction. It was clear the activists were neither on private property nor required to obtain a permit for permission to demonstrate.

As the drama unfolded, passers-by stopped to take pictures of the light projection and encouraged the activists to stand their ground and not yield to police.

Shortly afterwards, police left and there were no arrests. The projection resumed for another 10 minutes until the projector batteries ran low.

The demonstration was timed to highlight the NRA conference and the hypocrisy of its being held in a gun-free zone while across the nation, mass shootings continue unabated. It also exposed a growing national resistance to the NRA money machine and its sponsorship of Congressional defenders.

The light projection was part of a historic nationwide effort to highlight the negative impacts of the NRA lobby. Backbone Campaign coordinated light projections in 15 other cities, including Dallas, Boulder, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tallahassee, Nashville, Spokane, Madison, NYC, Chicago, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, Tacoma, and Seattle.

The anti-NRA movement has urged passage of “commonsense” gun regulations and a ban on semi-automatic weapons. Students and teachers who have seen first hand the carnage of mass shootings in their schools have rekindled efforts to pass gun legislation such as background checks and semi-automatic weapons ban.

Students from Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High School led a mass protest of the NRA in Washington, DC on March 24, drawing over half a million to the rally. They called for an end to sales of AR-15 semi-automatic weapons and urged voters to reject those elected leaders who take money from the gun lobby. Congressmen have been given over $2.4 million in contributions since 2015, according to Backbone Campaign activists.

The rally turned out to be one of the largest protests against the NRA lobby and its Congressional supporters.

The Trump International Hotel has been a lightning rod for protests since the GAO leased the property to Trump International Hotel, LLC.

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Howard University Students Occupy Administration Building, Demand President Resign

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 15:35

Washington, DC–Hundreds of Howard University students fed up with administration housing and campus policing policies have taken over and shut down the Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Administration Building near the main square of the historic black university. They say that demands for a change in leadership, affordable housing and oversight of campus police must be met before they will relinquish control of the facility. The occupation is in its sixth day.

Dozens of students are blocking the main lobby doors and admitting only Howard University students with an I.D. Streams of community supporters dropped by to donate water, food, bedding and toiletries. Students occupied all four floors of the building. Several security officers were stationed part of the way down 6th Street and were in communication with higher-ups by radio.

The glass doors were covered with neatly ordered signs, several of which read, “This Building Is Closed” and “Students Only (ID Required).” Other signs posted bore short testimonials of difficulties students were having with administration over housing, medical co-pays and applications for student aid, some of which have remained unresolved for several years. The students renamed the administration building “Kwame Ture Student Center” with a large poster board.

Maya McCollum of HU Resist says the occupation has been in planning since January./Photo by John Zangas

Students are free to come and go from the building, attend classes and take care of personal matters. “Everyone in the building is committed to seeing this through,” said Maya McCollum, a press liaison for the students.

The student occupation comes on the heels of a bombshell revelation that over a million dollars in student aid funding had been embezzled by members of the administration staff. The University reported that those involved had been fired.

At a minimum, University President Wayne Frederick would have to resign in order for students to cede control of the building back to a new administration, according to McCollum. Dr. Frederick is an alumnus who previously worked as a surgeon at Howard University Hospital. The HU Board of Trustees voted in July 2017 to extend his contract for five more years until 2024. With a salary of nearly a million dollars in 2014, Frederick was ranked 45 of 510 of most highly paid presidents of private colleges

Student concerns and grievances have gone unattended or ignored by university administrators, despite students requesting action be taken on them over the last year, McCollum said. One of the main issues students are focused on is access to affordable university housing.

Howard sold three of its dormitories to private developers, forcing students to contend with the high costs and shortage of local housing, according to a press release from the students. The sale of the dormitories severely limited student access to affordable housing and has caused significant financial hardship for many students, according to McCollum. And, she said, it has contributed to gentrification of the neighborhood.

“We can see our own university contributing to that when they sold off our dorms to be renovated into high quality lofts that the students and local community can’t afford,” she said. “That plays some part in the lack of housing.”

There are five major condominium projects underway near the campus in the vicinity of Sherman Street, which is near the edge of the campus. Over the last five years, there has been a surge in condominium development all over DC as foreign investors have poured billions into real estate development, impacting the local economy. This has in turn has driven up rents and curtailed affordable housing, especially for students of limited means.

Student demands are posted over the doorway of the administration building occupied by the students./Photo by John Zangas

Other demands include disarming campus police and initiating a student oversight board in matters related to campus policing. McCollum said that students felt unsafe with armed police on campus and had experienced unprofessional treatment in several circumstances. In light of recent high-profile national incidents involving police slayings of people of color, students were demanding an oversight board staffed by students.

Students say they are not using the occupation to get out of classwork. A tweet by the HU Resist group showed a sign inside the administration building indicating tutors were available to help students with their class studies.

Faculty have expressed their support for the students. A letter signed by 26 professors from ten HU departments castigated the administration over its handling of student concerns. “You raise important points about administrative and managerial matters that have not been adequately addressed,” the letter said. “You should be aware that we and many other faculty members share many of your concerns.”

Howard University is located in Washington, DC near Georgia Avenue, about a ten-minute drive from the U.S. Capitol. It had an enrollment of over 10,000 students in 2014, 6,000 of whom are undergraduates. Tuition, room, board and other fees cost $44,000 per year. It is the only historic black university ranked in the top 75 colleges.

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Students Lead ‘March For Our Lives’ Against NRA Lobby and Gun Violence

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 21:17

Washington, DC — High school students joined hands to lead over a half a million demonstrators in the “March For Our Lives” anti-gun protest on Saturday. They decried gun violence in their schools and criticized the National Rifle Association (NRA) response to mass shootings that have swept the country in recent years. They delivered a message to politicians funded by the gun lobby that they will “never again” let mass shootings happen because of easy access to guns.

“We’re determined–nobody’s backing down,” said Victoria Gonzalez, whose boyfriend Joaquin Oliver was one of the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School. “I think that’s what’s different. We’re not getting discouraged.”

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School organized “Change the Ref” to empower student leaders./Photo by John Zangas

A massive crowd packed Pennsylvania Ave., forming a sea of people in front of the stage erected for the noon rally. The youth-organized protest drew hundreds of thousands of protesters, and many advocacy groups lent their support, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Black Lives Matter, CODEPINK: Women For Peace, HipHop Coalition and many others.

Students from MSD High School in Parkland, Fl. were front and center, along with victims of other previous school shootings. Emma Gonzalez–who gained prominence after the Parkland shooting for a searing “we call B.S.” speech–took the stage for exactly 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the amount of time the shooting lasted. She named the victims and mesmerized the crowd when, in tears, she let most of the 6 minutes elapse in silence.

Students wearing “Parkway for Parkland” t-shirts came from Parkway High School in north Philadelphia to show solidarity with the Florida students. The Parkway students say gun violence in their communities is epidemic–56% of students have witnessed shootings firsthand, according to a student poll.

The vast numbers and intense feelings pervading the march may signal that an absolutist view of “gun rights”—that the Second Amendment is inviolable and should be allowed to trump students’ safety at school—will no longer be tolerated in the mainstream.

Among the March’s demands are a moratorium on AR-15 assault weapons, a ban on bump stocks and other devices which render guns into fully automatic weapons, mandatory background checks and an increase in the age of eligibility to purchase guns.

All young people were encouraged to register to vote as soon they are able to. Many students emphasized that they will soon be able to vote, and they delivered a stern warning to NRA supporters in Congress: they should be ready to pay a steep political price if they continue to obstruct gun control legislation.

Click to view slideshow.

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‘Stop the Shock’: FDA Director’s Home Beseiged by Disability Rights Activists

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 18:05
The ADAPT occupation has weathered wind, snow, ice and freezing temperatures highly unusual for March./Photo by John Zangas

Washington, DC — Disability rights activists have for the last two weeks made a tiny, nondescript park at 24th and I Streets NW into a temporary base of operations. “ADAPT Freedom Park,” as they’ve christened it, is nothing but a triangular sliver of grass bordered by tulip bulbs. Blankets, sleeping bags and inflated mattresses sprawl on the grass, and aluminum containers full of black beans, barbecue chicken, mashed potatoes and veggie casserole are neatly stacked on two park benches. Cookies, doughnuts, coffee and snacks pile up around them.

Banners, painted in black block letters, are what declare the park under occupation and the building across the street under siege. “Stop the Torture!” they say. “Director of FDA: Release the Regulations.”

The activists, from various chapters of the disability rights advocacy group ADAPT, have traveled from around the country to be here. A hardcore team of seasoned leaders, they fight for civil rights for disabled people. They are determined to do what it takes to convince the current FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, that abuse of their disabled and autistic “brothers and sisters” by aversive electric shock therapy will come with heavy political consequences. They have chosen the park outside his condominium to make their stand.

They plan to stay there indefinitely, until he meets with them to hear their demand: sign the order to end the electric shock of disabled persons at Judge Rotenburg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts.

They have been in the park 12 days. Nobody thought they would be there this long or realized how much of a toll it would take on their bodies. The days pass slowly as they work, plan and wait for a response from the FDA. With each hour they grow closer and more committed to fighting for the rights of students at the JRC facility. Their costs are going up too, with the account funds dwindling, they must call in for financial help. They’ve put everything on the line for their sustained protest. This is their “Standing Rock” moment, they say.

Day 7, Thursday, March 15, Legislative Day of Action on Capitol Hill

Transporting a large group on motorized wheelchairs via Metro is no easy matter. One must pass through two elevators–one elevator to descend to the pay kiosks and another to access trains. The lifts are also narrow and barely fit two motorized chair vehicles. A special kiosk for motorized chairs works slowly. The elevator design is inherently ableist, remarked Priya Penner, an ADAPT National disability rights activist, when explaining the challenges of what should be a short trip to Capitol Hill from ADAPT Park.

What would Metro be like if it were designed with access for the disabled equal in priority with others? From her perspective, Penner sees some easy fixes: one elevator to descend to the platforms and payment made by a barcode or better yet, made online.

This is the essence of daily life faced by physically disabled persons in most everything they encounter. Combine that with crumbling infrastructure, cracked sidewalks and difficulty accessing many older buildings, and it becomes clear that despite progress, there is still a long way to go for the disabled to reach equality of access with others.

Transit from the park to Capitol Hill is challenging enough for 15 people in wheelchairs, but the real roadblock facing them is getting support for passage of legislation banning aversive electric shock. Even if a regulation is in place, a subsequent administration could gut it later. This is why such permanent legislation is needed, say the activists.

It was this very situation that drove ADAPT to protest the healthcare bill in June of last year, which is essentially a capping of Medicare support for people with disabilities. Dozens were arrested at Congressman Mitch McConnell’s office over this initiative. It passed the House but is not out of committee in the Senate.

Congressman Chris Smith (D-NJ) hosts them in his office and hears their request to end aversive electric shock therapy. He is committed to authoring legislation to end it, but getting such legislation written and passed will take time. And with the present administration working to gut disability rights already afforded under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1995, it is doubtful such legislation would even make it to a vote on the House floor. Still, they persist. Their presence in his office at Rayburn House Office Building is a powerful statement in itself.

Day 8, Friday, March 16, ADAPT Park

On Friday night at 7:30 pm, as night falls and a cold stiff wind is pushing the activists to their physical limits, they form a circle for the nightly meeting. The last of rush hour traffic is dribbling back to the suburbs as they point their wheelchairs in toward the park center, meeting without using a bullhorn, and except for a few cars and buses, it’s quiet enough so passers-by can’t hear their plan of action for the next day. There is no hierarchy here.

The activists circle their motorized chairs, huddling around Mike Oxford, a tall, grey-bearded man dressed in khaki overalls. The cold from the wind causes them to lean in to him while the warmth of his voice assures and captures their attention. He guides them like an oracle as they discuss the plan for the night watch and what they will do the next day. Oxford is trusted and regarded as a seasoned organizer. He scribbles his notes in a small book and avoids using his cell phone for contacts. He rarely opts to use the apps, defaulting instead to recording contacts in a little brown book. A few of the activists joke about how lost he would be if he misplaced his book. But they trust his experience and judgement.

Air mattresses and blankets are spread on the park grass./Photo by Anne Meador

Oxford reviews the line up of the shifts and reads aloud the names of who is to replace who on the next watch. At night they must keep careful watch, since anyone can come by and remove equipment or personal items. The park is a dangerous place. A minivan was broken into the night before while the activists were nearby, but no one heard the glass break or was even aware it happened until the owner asked if they heard it.

Many of the activists have left jobs and their warm homes to be in this cold weather prone park to protest on behalf of the rights of the JRC students they have never met. Oxford admits that he’s not even sure the students at JRC know the activists are fighting for their rights. And as their protest goes into its second week, they didn’t expect it to last this long. Now they can’t go back. They refuse to quit, no matter what the weather does in the coming days. Tuesday night’s weather forecast is calling for a snow storm, and a few inches of snow and rain, the harshest conditions yet, but they plan to be here no matter what.

They have a willingness to do whatever it takes to be there for their disabled comrades. Fury and rage is in their voices when they speak of the electric shocks inflicted on the students at JRC. “How could they do this to our people?” asks Penner.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb holds the power to end the regulations which would ban aversive electric shock therapy, and he could do it with one signature. It is all but certain that their encampment can be seen from his second floor condominium in the modern building overlooking ADAPT Freedom Park. And if he isn’t looking out his window, he can hear their periodic chanting and drum rounds.

By far the biggest enemy they confront is the cold. It takes a toll on the motorized wheelchair batteries by limiting the charge, and drains the activists’ energy. It’s evident they are truly suffering from it. Despite being swaddled from head to toe with hats, scarves, blankets and uncounted layers of clothing and using hand warmers, their limitations of personal physical immobility allows the cold to penetrate their bodies. And it is painful. Several rock back and forth in their chairs to push out the cold. They struggle to stay warm and keep spirits high by listening to music and talking and joking among themselves. Whether or not their occupation fails or succeeds, they will be cold-hardened warriors when it is over.

Day 9, Saturday, March 17, 5 PM, St. Patrick’s Day

Tony sits on the grass making a poster board sign with a black Sharpie: “Stop the Torture, Free the Students.” He draws a large four-leaf clover in the corner using the same black Sharpie. He muses that it is black because it is a liberation shamrock.

A cold drizzle has begun to fall and several retreat under blue tarps attached to trees at the edge of the park. Priya Penner calls over to Tony and asks him when he is giving her raincoat back. “When I’m done using it,” he says, laughing. She isn’t even bothered by his laughter but could have been. Tony is too happy-go-lucky for anyone to get mad at him for doing anything they don’t like. She shrugs, as if she expects Tony to keep it the raincoat until it stops raining.

The drizzle falls harder and begins to wash away the chalk banner, “Welcome to ADAPT Park.” Some of the signs begin to sag while other chalk messages disappear altogether. There is a carton of thick chalk sticks under a bench. Someone will color the “Welcome To ADAPT Park” message once the rain stops and the sidewalk dries.

What the activists need and want won’t come in the form of signs, hand warmers, blankets or tarps. It will come in the form of freedom and liberation from the fear of abuse their comrades face at JRC.

Late that night after the rain has ended and a cold wind sweeps the park, the activists gather in front of Dr. Gottlieb’s condominium. They yell, “Stop the Shock, Stop the Torture!” while making noise with drums and air horns. A security guard comes out with a video camera to hush them up. But they persist. Police are called. It is 9:59 pm, and to avoid breaking a noise statute, they return back to the park across the street. Police arrive, but by then the activists have long returned to the park across the street. The police leave without approaching or speaking to them.

Day 10, Sunday, March 18, ADAPT Park Neighborhood Party

The activists decide to hold a party in the park and spread invitations for a barbecue to the neighborhood. On the menu are grilled hotdogs with a vegan option, potato chips, drinks and snacks. A few neighbors stop by and several activists explain why they are there. All the visitors react the same way, with stunned disbelief that electric shock is being used to discipline JRC students.

Jordan Sibayan, an organizer from the Denver chapter, Atlantis ADAPT, sets up his “Yellow Brick Road” display of a rewards and discipline system in use at the JRC facility. He lowers himself from his chair onto the ground and labors nearly an hour driving sticks to support four of his watercolor drawings into the dry dirt of the tulip bed. He asks for no help, but his diligence exudes patience and tenacity. His fiancée, Jacqueline Mitchell, another activist he met at a past protest hand him the sticks and bricks collected to erect the signs. Jordan and Jacqueline plan to get married this year.

ADAPT activists hold a block party and barbecue to attract people to the park./Photo by Anne Meador

He encourages her to repeat a chant about the FDA, but she doesn’t want to repeat it out loud. It has a bad word in it, she says. He keeps on asking her until she finally yells it out. Everyone laughs. Sibayan smiles because he got her to say it.

The wind keeps blowing down the signs but he persists in putting them back up. The drawings depict scenes of abuse at JRC. He uses them to explain to visitors the yellow brick road scheme of shock punishments in use at JRC. Most visitors are surprised to hear about it and listen intently to him.

All except one. A tall grey-haired man approaches the activists with an admonition about the nightly noise they make outside his condominium. He argues with two of the activists for a while, telling him how much of a disturbance they are. “How would you like to be shocked?” asks Colleen Flanagan, a disability rights activist from Boston. She hears his concerns about the noise, but he does not listen to her explanation and reasons for the protest. He leaves in frustration. Flanagan is upset by the man’s response, but admits it is part of what ADAPT does to be on the cutting edge of the movement for disability rights. ADAPT has earned its achievements through pushing the boundaries of civil disobedience, she says.

Another visitor stops by, curious about the signs. Paige Bradford teaches students with disabilities and is working on her Ph.D. at George Washington University. She encourages the activists. She says that all the research involving aversive electric shock, also known as “positive punishment,” shows it only works when it is being used in an institution. Once the student is released from the facility and returns to the community, they go revert to the same behaviors. “Positive punishment does not extinguish behaviors,” according to Bradford. The solution is to work with the students in finding ways to help them find ways to cope with stress, not to force them to behave in a certain way through punishment and fear.

She speaks about the fact that a special report on abuse and torture published by the UN has cited JRC as violating its convention. No one should be subjected to this, she says.

ADAPT will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Denver in June. The activists and organization takes credit for grassroots efforts to achieve many rights for the disabled, such as lifts on buses, improvements in building access, sidewalk access ramps and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1995.

ADAPT activists hold a sit-in at the FDA office building.

Day 12, Tuesday Night, 8:30 pm, March 20th, 2018 FDA Headquarters in Silver Spring

The activists travel en masse to Silver Spring for a civil disobedience direct action at the FDA headquarters building. In short order, they block entrances while others lay on the floor for a die-in. Twelve activists are inside and refuse to leave unless they are arrested and taken away. They chant loudly, bringing all evening business to a stop. Police respond and security stand by unsure what to do. Two hours later they are still chanting, “Dr. Gottlieb shame on you!” and “Release the regulations, end the torture!”

One of the protesters, Cal Montgomery, has fallen asleep in their chair, exhausted. Montgomery says they are proud to be with this group of activists. The occupation has given Montgomery a new purpose, one they had not experienced before.

The ADAPT activists continue chanting for three and a half hours in the FDA lobby. They live stream the action until midnight. Then they leave the office but block traffic in front of the FDA building on New Hampshire Ave. Police have had enough. They arrest eleven of them and ticket them for obstructing traffic. They are released at 3 am and return to DC, exhausted.

Montgomery reports that police sent a Metro bus equipped to pick them up because there are no accessible cabs in Montgomery County.

They arrive back in DC in the predawn hours. It has begun to snow. If the FDA was ignoring the activists, they must have finally taken notice now. They’ll be back. The battle is just beginning.

ADAPT National organization is raising funds to support the occupation at 24th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW. They also need food and supplies on a daily basis. More than anything, they need donations to pay for equipment and other supplies.

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Breaking: Lockdown at Spectra AIM Construction Site at Hudson River Crossing

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 21:59
Twelve people arrested blocking the controversial gas pipeline slated to pass near nuclear power plant

Update December 10

All twelve activists who stopped work at a Spectra AIM pipeline construction site on Thursday evening were released on bail early Saturday morning. They will appear in court on Monday, December 12 in Cortlandt Manor, NY on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.

Update December 9, 6:30am

The twelve people arrested at the Verplanck, NY Spectra construction site were arraigned overnight in Cortlandt, NY. The District Attorney asked for $50,000 bail each.

Defendants’ attorney got bail reduced, according to Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy Project, who posted the following on Facebook:

Dave Dorfman, our attorney, met with Judge McCarthy in the wee hours, and got the judge to reduce bail from $50,000 to $5,000 for 11 of them and $1,500 for one of them. They have been sent to Valhalla Correctional Facility at 10 Woods Rd. in Valhalla, NY.

The individual with bail reduced to $1,500 is a New York resident, while the other 11 are from out of state. All have prior experience protesting fossil fuel infrastructure, according to Fraczek.

To assist with $500 bond for the eleven out-of-state arrestees, you can donate to Mississippi Stand.

To assist with $150 bond for the New York resident, you can donate to ResistSpectra.

Twelve people were arrested at the Spectra Energy construction site late Thursday evening./Screenshot, Resist Spectra live stream

Update, 11:30pm

Twelve people were arrested at a construction site in Verplanck, NY where Spectra Energy is “pulling pipe” under the Hudson River to complete its AIM pipeline project.

The twelve “stormed inside” the site, according to Kim Fraczek, director of Sane Energy Project. Six of the activists then locked themselves to construction equipment, disrupting nighttime work on the pipeline.

Supporters off the property cheered as police pulled out with the twelve arrestees.

Supporters gathered outside the construction site./Screenshot, Resist Spectra live stream

December 8, 10pm:

Six activists have locked themselves to equipment at a Spectra construction site where the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project crosses the Hudson River. At about 8:30pm, activists swarmed the site where Spectra is now pulling pipeline under the river, according to Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy Project. Spectra security, state police and local police officers are on the scene.

Objections to the Spectra AIM gas pipeline have largely focused on its route, which passes only 105 feet from the Indian Point Energy Center. The river crossing in Verplanck, NY which the activists have locked down is less than a mile from the nuclear power plant.

The aging nuclear power plant has a long history of emergency shutdowns and leakage into the Hudson River. People opposing the project contend that with the additional of a 42″ diameter gas pipeline, an accident is likely and would have catastrophic consequences.

Spectra AIM was supposed to go into service on November 1, transporting fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New England, but there were difficulties with test drilling under the Hudson River over the summer caused delays. Clay in the river bed collapsed during test drilling, and a drill bit broke and was lost in the river. The drill method is the controversial Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) technique. Over project opponents objections, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave permission for the company to continue with the project.

In October, construction was also delayed when four activists crawled into pipeline intended to be pulled under the Hudson River and occupied it for 16 hours.

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‘People’s Hearing’ Convened to Reform FERC

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 19:22

Panel of ‘judges’ hears testimony from residents opposed to FERC’s close relationship with the natural gas industry./Photo by Mark Hand

Described as the first-ever “People’s Hearing” challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), more than 60 speakers presented testimony on why they believe the agency systematically fails to listen to the concerns of the general public.

A panel of “judges,” fashioned similar to the monthly FERC open meetings, presided over the Dec. 2 hearing, held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Unlike the real FERC meetings, speakers did not run the risk of getting escorted out by security guards for standing up and expressing dissent with the agency’s decisions.

Many speakers at the standing room-only event described FERC as a “rubber stamp” machine. They urged Congress to grant FERC more leeway to reject a company’s application if the agency determines the project would harm local communities and the environment. Relying on “the market” to decide whether a project should be approved is a flawed regulatory practice that should be replaced by a system that examines the actual need for the infrastructure and whether other options exist to meet the energy needs of the public, speakers said.

The roster of speakers served to illustrate the impressive scope of infrastructure build-out — from pipelines to compressor stations to liquefied natural gas export terminals — occurring in the eastern U.S. Speakers expressed frustration with how FERC appears to operate as an industry partner rather than an honest broker in natural gas infrastructure proceedings.

Russell Chisholm of the group Preserve Giles County contended that the voices of local residents were “stripped” from the public scoping meetings held for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a project proposed by EQT Midstream Partners LP and four corporate partners. According to Chisholm, FERC project manager Paul Friedman facilitated two public scoping meetings in southwestern Virginia: one in May 2015 and the other in November 2016.

“In both sessions, there was a common pattern in Friedman’s behavior of circumventing and converting so-called public hearings for the purpose of collecting citizens concerns and information into a systematic effort by Friedman to manipulate public opinion, dissuade opposition to the MVP and cloud any public record of that opposition,” said Chisholm, a U.S. Army veteran, who told the audience he planned to head to North Dakota after the public hearing to join other veterans in a show of solidarity with Native Americans opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

Activists Seek to Fix ‘Corrupt’ Agency

The hearing’s organizers — Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Berks Gas Truth, Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action, Beyond Extreme Energy, EarthWorks and Catskill Mountainkeeper — said they support a request signed by more than 180 organizations calling on Congress to reform the Natural Gas Act and investigate how FERC reviews natural gas infrastructure projects.

Throughout its nearly 40-year history, FERC has generally kept a low profile. With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the start of the shale gas boom, though, FERC’s stature grew as residents started doing their homework on how natural gas projects were getting proposed and approved in their communities. For the past two years, activists have attended every monthly FERC meeting to protest the way the agency reviews natural gas infrastructure applications.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and other groups hold a “people’s hearing” in Washington, DC, to discuss FERC’s review and approval process./Photo by Mark Hand

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, FERC became the lead agency for purposes of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). With this newly assumed power, FERC has refused to heed the advice of experts at other federal agencies, said David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the state’s national forests. The group opposes the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas project proposed by Dominion Resources.

FERC often ignores or downplays the importance of concerns raised by the U.S. Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said Sligh. Wild Virginia reviewed 18 cases across the U.S. in which various EPA regional offices commented on a FERC draft environmental impact statement (EIS). In every case, Sligh said, the EPA deemed the information in the draft EIS to be “insufficient,” whether it was a flawed analyses of route alternatives and cumulative impacts, a failure to address long-term damages to waterbodies and mature forests, or a refusal to follow NEPA regulations in regard to needs analyses, greenhouse gases and environmental justice.

“FERC must not have the option of ignoring the opinions and judgments of environmental agencies that have greater expertise and credibility. Congress must see to it,” Sligh said.

Megan Holleran, who has been fighting construction of Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC’s natural gas pipeline on her family’s property in Susquehanna County, Pa., said the people’s hearing successfully provided attendees with a look at the many areas of FERC’s regulatory review process that need to be fixed.

“Even the people who are trying to work within the system are finding that it is broken. There is a sense from people outside of the activism community that we ignore the official process and then just stand out there and tie ourselves to a tree,” Holleran said in an interview. “The people’s hearing is a really good way to send out the message that everyone does try to follow the official process. The reason we end up tied to a tree is because the official process is corrupt.”

Belinda Blazic, a New Jersey resident fighting Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line’s proposed Garden State Expansion Project, questioned why FERC lets pipeline companies build their projects in segments, a common complaint heard at the hearing. Pipeline segmentation, according to Blazic, makes it easier for companies to overcome regulatory requirements at both the federal and state levels. “The impacts of these projects in our communities raise serious questions of FERC’s review process. Congressional investigation and legislative remedy are needed,” she said. “The ‘R’ in FERC stands for ‘Regulatory’ not ‘rubber stamp.’”

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Stops Dakota Access Pipeline—For Now

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 19:08

At a march in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters in Washington, DC/Photo by Ted Majdosz

Against all odds, the Standing Rock Sioux have prevailed in stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline at Lake Oahe. On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied–for the time being–the easement which would have given Energy Transfer Partners permission to build the final segment of the project under the Missouri River.

Occupants of the Oceti Sakowin camp erupted in joy and celebration at the announcement.

“We will not fight tonight, we will dance,” said Rami Bald Eagle, Cheyenne River Lakota Tribal Leader, when he received the news.

The Standing Rock Sioux released a statement of thanks to Water Protectors and allies who had taken part in the standoff: “Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

Jo-Ellen Darcy, Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, issued the announcement. “Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” she said. The ACE will explore “alternatives” to the pipeline crossing.

The ACE statement came as thousands of U.S. veterans had been arriving by car all day Sunday, adding to the existing thousands already at four camps who have opposed the project since April.

The group of at least 2,000 veterans had mobilized in response to a violent attack on Water Protectors by Morton County police on November 20. They came to form a buffer between Morton County police and Water Protectors. Over 300 had been injured, including shootings with rubber bullets and water cannons. On that night, over 26 were shot with projectiles thought to be rubber bullets. An activist lost use of her arm from what is thought to be a concussion grenade.

Hundreds of cars with veterans stream into Oceti Sakowin camp/Photo by Dennis Trainor

The Army Corps decision is not final but will probably lead to an analysis for a formal Environment Impact Statement, long sought by the tribes, which could take months to complete.

It’s unclear how the transition to the Trump administration will ultimately affect the Dakota Access Pipeline’s route.

“We don’t know what the next administration is going to do, but at least if we get an Environmental Impact Statement process in place that will delay this for months,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a video posted on Facebook.

Gail Small, a Native American Studies professor at Montana State University, told Inforum that presidential power is constrained by federal agencies such the Army Corps, which have broad discretion in making regulatory decisions such as easements.

Energy Transfer Partners can also appeal the decision. While any scenario will push the pipeline’s in-service date long past January 1, whether the pipeline will be re-routed, or stopped entirely, is up in the air.

Goldtooth thanked the Water Protectors and allies for their hard work fighting the Dakota Access project and asked them to continue supporting those everywhere trying to keep fossil fuels in the ground. “Thank you so much for this moment,” he said.

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Anti-DAPL Protesters March to Elaine Chao’s Capitol Hill House

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 12:40

Protesters gather outside the Capitol Hill home of Elaine Chao/Photo by Collin Rees

Dozens of people marched from Columbus Circle to the Capitol Hill house of Elaine Chao, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and a board member of Wells Fargo & Co., an investor in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Dec. 3 action was organized by the Washington, DC, chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) to demonstrate solidarity with Native Americans who have been fighting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline since last spring. As part of the months-long anti-DAPL campaign, activists have urged Wells Fargo and other investment banks providing loans to DAPL developer Energy Transfer Partners to end their financial support of the oil pipeline project.

“In responding to peaceful protection of tribal lands and resources with militarized violence, federal, state and local governments, as well as the shadowy web of corporations funding and construction the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), are perpetuating a long history of white imperialist violence against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other native peoples,” SURJ said in a Dec. 3 press release.

Organizers from SURJ chose Columbus Circle, just south of Union Station, as the starting point for the march to symbolize the brutality faced by indigenous people in the Americas at the hands of white settlers for more than 500 years. Along with showing solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, organizers recognized that the District of Columbia is situated on the land of the Powhatan chiefdom, a tribal body that encompassed nearly 30 tribes and 6,000 square miles.

Activists Escalate Campaign against DAPL Banks

The protesters walked several blocks from Columbus Circle, halting traffic along the way, to Chao’s house where they intended to urge the incoming DOT secretary to convince Wells Fargo to end its financing of the Dakota Access project. The former Labor secretary in the George W. Bush administration appeared not to be home. Wells Fargo reportedly said it would “be pleased” to meet with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe this month to discuss its investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Protesters march from Columbus Circle to home of Wells Fargo board member Elaine Chao to demonstrate solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux trible./Photo by Mark Hand.

Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. The protesters quietly sang outside the house and then passed out leaflets about the Dakota Access Pipeline in the neighborhood. About a half-dozen police arrived on the scene, but no one was arrested.

“We join the thousands of American Indians from hundreds of tribes and millions of people of conscience from around the world in demanding the immediate withdrawal of police/military and construction forces from Standing Rock, as well as reparations for the recent and historical harms perpetrated by the U.S. government,” the SURJ press release said.

Along with serving as a board member of Wells Fargo, Chao also sits on the board of directors of News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch-founded media conglomerate that owns Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and dozens of other media companies.

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#NoDAPL DC Solidarity March Resounds with ‘Water Is Life’ Battle Cry

Sun, 11/27/2016 - 19:13

Washington, DC — Several hundred people, led by Native Americans in ceremonial dress, marched from the Department of Justice to the Washington Monument on Sunday in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is under construction on land belonging to Sioux Nations according to an 1851 treaty. This event was one of many solidarity actions supporting the North Dakota resistance camps fighting the pipeline, which if completed would run 1,168 miles from North Dakota Bakken shale fields to Illinois.

The march, organized by Last Real Indians, was accompanied by a drum circle and singers in a pick-up truck preceding the marchers. Three girls in “jingle dress” and five Native Americans in ceremonial dress danced and marched proudly up Pennsylvania Ave. in front of hundreds with banners and signs.

Marchers chanted, “Can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil,” “Who do we stand with? Standing Rock,” and “Mni wconi, water is life!” Among the signs, some read, “Honor the treaties,” referring to the U.S. government’s treaties with the sovereign American Indian nations governing the land appropriated by Dakota Access LLC for its pipeline. Other signs read,”Defend the Sacred: We Are Still Here” and “Respect Existence, Expect Resistance.”

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and several police departments and agencies from other states have made an all-out effort to defend the Dakota Access Pipeline from massive camps of protesters, or “Water Protectors,” as they prefer to be called. Thousands have flocked to the remote North Dakota region in an effort to stop the pipeline or delay its completion beyond January 1, when some of Dakota Access’ contracts expire. Law enforcement, outfitted with militarized gear and vehicles, have used full force on Water Protectors, including so-called “less-lethal” weapons such as rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers, tear gas, water cannons and LRADs, a sound cannon which can cause permanent hearing damage.

On Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to the Standing Rock Sioux saying that it would eject all protesters north of the Cannonball River on December 5. At the march’s destination at the Washington Monument, Last Real Indians founder Chase Alone Iron Eyes addressed the crowd regarding ACE’s letter.

“The Army Corps of Engineers seeks to declare Native American peoples trespassers on their own land. In 1875, they sent the same letter,” he said. “The more things change, the more they stay the same. But things are different now.”

He said that his people had been “a warrior people” who had defended themselves “to the death.” But now, he said, “we are living in a different time, with different gifts and technologies.” While the Morton County Sheriff’s Department had tried to paint them as violent, they would not “fall into that trap.”

“All we need is the power of our peace,” he said. “Peace is not passive. Peace is standing in your own dignity. We are the moral compass of this country.” He was grateful for having allies, he said. “This is not only a Native American fight. This is so much more explosive than that. They’re coming for your constitutional rights [too].”

A group of U.S military veterans have said that they will “deploy” to Standing Rock Dec. 4-7 to defend Water Protectors and sabotage Dakota Access Pipeline construction.

Click to view slideshow.



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Fidel Castro Mourned at Cuban Embassy

Sat, 11/26/2016 - 22:52

Washington, DC — They came to the Cuban Embassy to say goodbye to a revolutionary and long time leader who guided Cuba through six decades as the President.

Fidel Castro died yesterday at 90 after a long illness. He was remembered by admirers as a revolutionary more than a president, who led his island nation through turbulent times, surviving nine U.S. presidencies and a nearly six decades of an embargo. Critics however curse him as a politically repressive dictator who did not tolerate dissent.

The embargo was established after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1959, after Castro came to power during the Kennedy administration. It denied his country trade with much of the West, reducing its economy to an austere remnant of its 1950s heyday when it was regarded as a getaway playground for Hollywood socialites.

President Obama reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba last year, ending the embargo and ushering in conditions for future market access. The Embassy of Cuba was reopened in July 2015, and direct travel was allowed to the island for the first time since 1959.

Many who stopped by the embassy left flowers and traded stories about Castro’s life and what he did for his country, including James Ploeser, a member of the Latin America and Caribbean Network. “He stood up to the powers that be in the most powerful country in the world and dedicated his life to benefiting poor and working people,” said Ploeser.

Ploeser spoke about access to healthcare for everyone in Cuba, something not seen in the U.S. “The Cuban example shows that providing healthcare to everyone is a very important and possible thing to do for a fairly poor country,” he said.

Musician Carlos Alfredo-Castro, who wrote a song for Castro, spoke about the free education system in Cuba, and said that Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. “It’s very impressive how one person can change a whole nation,” said Alfredo-Carlos.

A state funeral is planned in Cuba for Fidel Castro next week. The entire country is expected to take part.

World powers came close to a nuclear exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, when Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev deployed nuclear weapons to the island nation. Castro persevered through that crisis and many more, eventually becoming a respected leader in South American countries.

“He was always thinking about the workers and the poor,” said Alfred-Castro.

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On Thanksgiving Day, Immigrants Urge Obama to Undo His Legacy as ‘Deporter-in-Chief’

Fri, 11/25/2016 - 16:24

Cesar Vargas, an attorney with the Dream Action Coalition, speaks at Thanksgiving Day press conference in front of White House./Photo by Kevin Thomas.

Undocumented immigrants and their allies traveled this week from Trump Tower in New York City to the White House in Washington, DC, as part of a movement called “Caravan of Courage” to demand action from President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.

The Dream Action Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, organized the march in the wake of Trump’s election and as Obama’s presidency, which has seen a record number of deportations, enters its final weeks. On their trip from Trump Tower to the White House, the group made stops along the route to support other activists, including organizers against a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Philadelphia.

“We have marched to meet with immigrant communities along the way in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey to demonstrate one message very clear: that we are undocumented, unafraid and we are here to stay,” Cesar Vargas, an attorney with the Dream Action Coalition, said at a press conference in front of the White House on Thanksgiving Day. “Today is Thanksgiving. Millions of families are spending the day with their families at the table. But the reality is that millions of other American families have their loved ones in private detention centers where private corporations are profiting at the expense of the taxpayers, at the expense of our immigrant and American families.”

The Obama administration, with the backing of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, has detained and deported a record number of undocumented immigrants. “We had high hopes for President Obama, but he has detained the most immigrants than any president in American history,” Vargas emphasized. “What is his legacy as he leaves office? Will he be the Deporter-in-Chief? Or will he be the champion that keeps families together? That’s his decision.”

Between 2009 and 2014, 2.4 million people were deported from the U.S., according to a Pew Research data analysis released Aug. 31. If 2015 and 2016 keep pace with the first six years,, about 3.2 million people will have been deported under the Obama administration. Under the previous Bush administration, about 2 million people were deported between 2001 and 2008.

The Dream Action Coalition works to establish local, state, and federal policies that secure fairness for the diverse immigrant community without discrimination based on immigration status or national origin. Dream is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or the DREAM Act, legislation that would grant undocumented immigrants residency upon meeting certain qualifications. The legislation, first introduced 15 years ago, has yet to pass Congress. In 2012, Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting young undocumented individuals who meet certain criteria previously proposed under the DREAM Act.

Activists Highlight Immigrant Action Items

At the Nov. 24 press conference, Vargas highlighted four areas where Obama still can help immigrant communities in his final two months in office.

  • Close family detention centers, including those in Pennsylvania and Texas, many of which are private and are profiting from the suffering of immigrant families.
  • Expedite all Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. DACA is an immigration policy ordered by Obama in 2012 as an executive action that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.
  • Pardon approximately 42,000 detainees currently in prison for immigration-related charges.
  • Stop preventing entry to asylum seekers who are being persecuted in their countries.

Participants in the Caravan of Courage call on President Barack Obama to end detention and deportation of immigrants./Photo courtesy of Dream Action Coalition.

Sal Montes, an immigrant rights activist from Dutchess County, NY, passionately spoke of the struggle facing immigrant families: “Those who do not know our pain tonight be thankful that you don’t have to be here like we are. Be thankful that you are not in our shoes and that you will never feel the fear or see the fear in your friends and families,” Montes said. “But do not forget that your ancestors were once in our shoes as immigrants felt what we’re feeling right now.”

With the election of Donald Trump as president, the nation has seen an increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric and violence against communities of color. “We’re not going to tolerate that. That’s why we march, to send that strong message. This is the country that we call home and we’re not going to let fear dictate what we’re going to do in the next four years,” Vargas said.

Vargas, who came to the United States when he was five-years-old, graduated from law school and became the first undocumented attorney in New York State.

The Dream Action Coalition has requested a meeting with Trump, according to Vargas, so the president-elect can “see the human side of a broken immigration system than many people don’t see.” Vargas said the group wants the United States to get rid of a “dragnet where innocent, hard-working immigrants are caught up in a system that is broken and outdated.”

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Police Attack Water Protectors at Dakota Access Pipeline Standoff

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 20:45

Morton County sheriff’s department uses water cannon on water protectors in North Dakota./Photo by Dallas Goldtooth

Standing Rock Reservation, ND — In what will go down as one of the most violent chapters of a nine-month standoff against a company building an oil pipeline at the Standing Rock Reservation in Morton County, ND, police launched a full-frontal attack against Water Protectors trying to clear access across a bridge on Highway 1806.

Hundreds were injured, more than two dozen seriously, including an activist from New York who may lose functioning of an arm and is still in the hospital as of publication. An elder suffered a cardiac arrest, and a 13-year-old girl was shot in the head, purportedly by a rubber bullet. Dozens more were shot with what are believed to be rubber bullets.

Police launched the attack Sunday evening as thousands of indigenous people and their allies gathered as night fell and temperatures dropped below freezing. Water Protectors moved onto the bridge to clear burned-out vehicles to access the construction site where crews were beginning final preparations for drilling under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. Police had set up a blockade behind the vehicles, and Water Protectors were able to remove one vehicle before police pinned them down on the bridge.

As of Monday night, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) had still not issued final permits for Dakota Access Pipeline construction crews to proceed when word of drilling preparations began circulating around the camps nearby.

Violent attacks by armed police were live-streamed throughout the night. Subsequent photos confirmed  police fired gas canisters, flashbang grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons on hundreds who were trapped on the bridge.

Water Protector prays covered with ice from water cannon./Photo by Rob Wilson

The Standing Rock Facebook page issued requests for supporters to call the White House and the ACE to demand President Barack Obama intervene, but it was difficult to get through switchboards. As of Monday, the White House had not signaled that it would intervene.

“They deployed twenty mace canisters in a small area in less than five minutes,” said Angel Bivens, an attorney with the Standing Rock Water Protectors legal collective, who spoke by phone with Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Police Arsenal Includes Concussion Grenades

Bivens reported that a woman had suffered a serious knee injury, and an elder had suffered a cardiac arrest but had been revived by medics on the scene. She also reported that the front-line medical area had come under attack by police with mace canisters and water cannons.

Standing Rock Medical and Healers Council sent a press release reporting over 300 injuries, which they treated on site, and 26 serious injuries, which were sent to several area hospitals. The press release outlined the human carnage from the attack, listing hypothermia as the major injury in most patients treated.

“Police continuously assaulted demonstrators with up to three water cannons for the first 7 hours of this incident in subfreezing temperatures dipping to 22°F, causing hypothermia in the majority of patients treated. Chemical weapons in the form of pepper spray and tear gas were also used extensively, requiring chemical decontamination for nearly all patients treated and severe reactions in many,” the press release said. “Projectiles in the form of tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades led to numerous blunt force traumas including head wounds, lacerations, serious orthopedic injuries, eye trauma, and internal bleeding.”

Sophia Wilansky suffered a direct hit from concussion grenade./Photo by Wayne Wilansky

Sophia Wilansky, 21, an activist from New York who had joined in support of Water Protectors several weeks ago, suffered a direct hit in the arm by a concussion grenade and will lose most functioning in her arm, according to her father. Friends had posted a request to help her family with blood donations and medical expenses. As of Tuesday night, the fund had raised $249,000, but medical expenses are expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars. More surgeries will be required on her arm over the coming days.

Morton County police denied using water cannons at first, and then later admitted using them to mist activists in response to fires that they set to keep warm.  But live stream video showed water cannons being fired directly onto the Water Protectors throughout the night as temperatures dipped below freezing. Water Protectors also reported flashbang grenade fire from police. Flashbang grenades are known to start fires under the right conditions.

A live stream broadcast by Kevin Gilbert from a nearby hill through the night narrated the violent scenes. Reaction to the attack was swift and described as heavy handed and brutal. Both Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders, former presidential candidates, shared the live stream of the attack on their Facebook pages.

Over 400 Water Protectors have been arrested since the uprising began at Standing Rock in April.

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