By Sarah Rose Harper and Jesse Phelps
As the resistance to the Line 3 pipeline on unceded treaty lands in what is now called Minnesota heats up — with multiple camps standing against militarized police there to ensure the destruction of sacred lands and water systems — a newly proposed law before the U.S. Senate could drastically increase the danger to water protectors.
At Camp Migizi, they need all hands on deck. Police just arrested water protectors supporting other water protectors being released from jail.
The bill, innocuously titled the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2021, would create a federal law that potentially weaponizes state forces and codifies a money pipeline for states to accept and solicit private funding from anyone, including mega-donors and private corporations. Under the guise of creating “energy security plans” — specifically around so-called “critical infrastructure,” which, of course, includes pipelines — this new bill not only paves the way, but legally standardizes requirements for companies like Line 3 parent Enbridge and Keystone XL (KXL) parent TransCanada to fund state forces to put down Native-led dissent.
Water protectors are already fighting multinational, multibillion-dollar corporations. With HR 1374, these companies would no longer need to hide their payouts to local police or disguise their pipeline funding as campaign donations. This bill opens the door to a whole new level of draconian enforcement, actually requiring that these corporations publicly hop into bed with state officials and state forces.
Right now, these heinous practices are already happening and are no secret to those paying close attention — though everyone involved would prefer to keep such arrangements quiet. With this bill, America would be blurring the line between corporation and state, sanctifying the channeling of private funds into the hands of already violent and well-funded police and military forces (whether private, like TigerSwan, or public, like the National Guard).
Ultimately, America could also be engaging in the state-sponsored, public murders of water protectors. As recently reported by Democracy Now!, water protector and land back attorney Bruce Ellison has obtained documents indicating that “lethal force” could be deployed to suppress Indigenous activists resisting pipelines.
Ellison, who obtained the documents through an investigation of the now-ended KXL pipeline, said that the South Dakota National Guard was slated to be the main force to ensure KXL’s full build — including, potentially, the use of lethal force. According to Ellsion, such force can now be used in defense of both people and property in South Dakota, including if officers perceive that no other remedy could be employed when suspected offenders are leaving the scene.
While this situation is outrageous and shocking, it’s just one example coming out of South Dakota. The state also passed a pair of “riot boosting” laws last year and established a “peace fund” that required TransCanada to put up to $20 million to be used for anything having to do with construction of KXL. Imagine all of this on a national scale.
Should HR 1374 pass, that could happen. It would provide the vehicle for enacting this South Dakota scenario in every state, at every pipeline, and at every protest.
These are dangerous and dark times. Proposed by a Democrat lawmaker in the wake of the cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline Co., the bill seems to have wide-ranging support. It was introduced and passed in the house very quickly. The timing of this is no coincidence; it passed just before the Treaty People’s Gathering — the largest stop Line 3 demonstration to date. You will perhaps remember the helicopters that day descending on water protectors and creating massive dust storms, the hundreds of police deployed from multiple counties, the zip ties used on human limbs.
Lawmakers seem to care little about all of that. They’re more concerned with protecting oil industry profits, and the Senate is now hearing expert testimony on pipeline cybersecurity measures.
Being a water protector is dangerous when you stand between a multi-billion dollar pipeline and its pathway to profit, because the police and state won’t hesitate to use force to ensure that these companies win. Imagine making this fight harder, increasing the police force, giving corporations more power, and using death as a deterrent to facilitate the ongoing extraction of Mother Earth at the hands of these soulless barons. Now realize you don’t have to imagine it. It’s here. It is HR 1374.
Frontline Water Protectors need your help. This bill could be passed by those who are unable to see the sacred. Please help make sure your senators understand the stakes. Tell them to vote NO on HR 1374. States like South Dakota and Minnesota cannot be entrusted with massive amounts of additional funds and authority to put down protest with maximum force to protect investments in a dying industry that’s also killing our planet. We must stop this violence here.
You can be a water protector. You don’t have to stand at the frontline, and you don’t have to be Indigenous. This water is our water. Everyone needs access to clean water, and everyone deserves to live in a world where the threat of death doesn’t accompany every effort to stand up against injustice. We often hear, “I would be a water protector, but…” or “I wish I could be a water protector.” You can, and we need you now.
Protecting water doesn’t only happen at the frontlines; it happens when you tweet, share stories, organize Facebook events, design posters, make graphics, caretake for overworked allies, play music, donate for travel and food, provide first aid, transcribe content to make it accessible, feed people, build things, write newsletters, or write to your senator. We must do everything we can right now to protect Unci Maka, our grandmother Earth, from the ravages of human-caused climate change. We must invest in the solutions and stand firm against those who seek to desecrate her. Thank you for your action!