Early SIgns of Fascism


US Holocaust Museum’s “early warning signs of fascism” sign is going viral

We Can Never Forget, and We Must Not Repeat


NEVER FORGET

Remembering the Holocaust in the Time of Trump, When Jews Fleeing Horror Were Denied Asylum in America

A long-buried documentary, co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein, provides unequivocal proof of the Holocaust’s horrors. Bernstein’s daughter, Jane Wells, opens up about the film—and why Donald Trump and Jared Kushner should see it.

MARLOW STERN

This Friday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps that claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people, most of them Jews. President Donald Trump chose to commemorate the occasion by releasing a public statement omitting any mention of Jews or the scourge of anti-Semitism (breaking with past GOP and Democratic tradition), and signing an executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.

“It’s repulsive,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, told CNN. “I mean, the timing is incredibly offensive. It was during the Holocaust that the world shamefully refused to give asylum to Jews and to others who were being murdered or about to be murdered in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, during the Holocaust, as millions of Jews were being slaughtered by the Nazis, the United States enforced strict immigration quotas against Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe.

In June 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis sailed into the Port of Miami with 937 refugees onboard—nearly all Jewish and seeking asylum in the United States. They’d already been turned away from Cuba and Canada, and when they were denied entry into America, the ship was forced to return to Europe where many of its passengers were killed in the Holocaust. Even Anne Frank’s family made several desperate attempts to emigrate from Europe to America, only to be denied visas.

This closed-door policy was an extension of the Immigration Act of 1924, which sought to, in the words of dissenting Jewish-American politician Emmanuel Celler, create “a distinct American identity by favoring native-born Americans over Southern and Eastern Europeans in order to ‘maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic composition of the population.’” Both Congress and the public believed that these Southern and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom were Jewish, would take away jobs from Americans plagued by the Depression, and were racially inferior. Asians and Arabs were banned entirely.

A scene from the documentary 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.'

COURTESY OF 3GENERATIONS

A scene from ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

There was also widespread paranoia concerning a “fifth column,” or the theory that, should Germany or Japan invade the U.S., embedded spies from those countries would help destroy America from the inside. This led to the cruel internment of Japanese-Americans, and the curbing of U.S. visas to those from Axis countries.

At a June 5, 1940, press conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: “Now, of course, the refugee has got to be checked because, unfortunately, among the refugees there are some spies, as has been found in other countries. And not all of them are voluntary spies—it is rather a horrible story but in some of the other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they found a number of definitely proven spies.”

This fear of immigrant spies was mostly just that. With the exception of a few highly publicized cases, including that of 28-year-old German Herbert Karl Friedrich Bahr, there’s been no evidence of a mass influx of immigrant spies during this time. In fact, there exist striking parallels to the GOP and President Trump’s Muslim immigrant panic of today, given that, of the 784,000 refugees settled in America between September 11, 2001, and October 2015, only three have been arrested for plotting terrorist acts. “And it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” wrote Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute. The terrorists behind the San Bernardino shooting, Pulse nightclub massacre, and Boston Marathon bombing were all U.S. citizens.

Earlier this month, the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was quietly released into select North American theaters. Produced by Sidney Bernstein, advisor to the British Ministry of Information, and co-directed by his pal Alfred Hitchcock, the documentary is comprised of footage shot by Allied American, British, Soviet, and Canadian combat cameramen as they liberated ten concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Majdanek. The images are unforgettable, from Nazi physician Fritz Klein being interviewed on top of a pile of bodies at Bergen-Belsen to long, uninterrupted pans capturing stacks of eyeglasses, wedding rings, toothbrushes, human teeth, and bags of hair collected by the Nazis. There are even collections of lampshades made of human skin.

“The panning shots were Hitchcock’s idea,” says Jane Wells, the daughter of Bernstein whose non-profit, 3generations, put out Factual Survey. Hitchcock advised Bernstein and his crew of soldier-documentarians by phone, and suggested the continuous takes because “he felt that people wouldn’t believe what they were seeing otherwise.”

Unfortunately, the film was never completed for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t until 2008 that the Imperial War Museum, using the original filmmakers’ rough cut, script, and shot list, finalized the editing process. The 75-minute finished film premiered 69 years after it was shot, at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.

“I tried to enumerate the different explanations,” Wells tells me, before taking out a notepad and reading from it. “One was the fear it would alienate Germans when they were trying to rebuild Germany after the war. The second one is the British government didn’t want to build support for a Zionist state. The third is they didn’t want to create undue sympathy for Jews in particular, or to single Jews out for poor treatment. And the fourth one, which is the Imperial War Museum’s theory, is that its time had come and it had missed its moment.”

Its shelving was devastating to Bernstein, who refused to speak publicly about what Wells calls his “great secret” until he was interviewed for the 1985 documentary A Painful Reminder, which contained footage from his film. Parts of Factual Survey were also used in Billy Wilder’s 22-minute concentration camp documentary Death Mills (Die Todesmühlen), released in January 1946.

“Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall,” Factual Survey’s narrator says. And according to Wells, “it’s hard not to see the parallel to today,” given the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and abroad corresponding with the rise of Trump, candidate Trump dog-whistling to white nationalists during his campaign by sharing anti-Semitic memes that originated on neo-Nazi online message boards, and the ascendance of Steve Bannon, former overlord of the “alt-right” publication Breitbart turned Trump right-hand man, who’s been accused of serial anti-Semitism.

A scene from the documentary 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.'

COURTESY OF 3GENERATIONS

A scene from ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

“To me, it’s horrific. I’d love to invite the President and Jared Kushner to come see this film, and love to encourage any Jews who supported Trump to come see this film. I know Jews who voted for Trump, and if you ask them about the rise of white nationalism or the ‘alt-right’ in the wake of Trump, they’ll say, ‘Oh, well his son-in-law is a Jew! His daughter keeps a kosher kitchen, how bad can it be?’” say Wells. “The rise of the ‘alt-right’ is completely awful. The way Jews have been called out on Twitter is horrible and disgraceful. I’d like some of these ‘alt-right’ people to also come see this film and try and explain to me why they think this didn’t happen or didn’t matter.”

“If you see this footage, “ she adds, “there is no way on God’s earth that you can argue this didn’t happen.”

Wells had initially planned to release German Concentration Camps Factual Survey theatrically on Jan. 27, 2015, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The film didn’t make it to cinemas until January 6thof this year, but she believes that, given the Syrian refugee crisis, it “will have more of an impact today than it would have even then.”

“It is a cry for reconnecting to our humanity, and I think that is a message that is very resonant today,” offers Wells. “When I look at the atrocities that are happening in Syria today, when I look at the situation with Native Americans in North Dakota, when I look at the rise of the fascistic far-right globally, it seems like we have forgotten some of our common humanity.”

 

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WORLD HISTORY ARCHIVE / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

‘BEWARE THE BEGINNINGS’

How the Nazis Took Control of Germany

Hitler was not that popular when he first took office, but the Nazis quickly changed that, for the simple reason that power magnifies the ideas of those who hold it.

PETER HAYES

Today, Jan. 27, marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That event did not mark the end of the Holocaust—gassings continued until the eve of Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945, and thousands more died of the effects of starvation and mistreatment at places like Belsen even weeks after their liberation.

But Jan. 27 should put us in mind of the beginnings. How did this happen? In particular, how could Germany, by all outward indications a civilized and modern country, become a persecuting society, brutally indifferent to the fates of anyone outside its supposed “people’s community”?

These questions should worry people for all time.

Adolf Hitler was a minority choice to lead his country; when he took office, roughly 55 percent of Germans had never voted for him. Anti-semitism was prevalent in German culture but by no means dominant or respectable. The nation’s elites (the establishment) generally regarded the Nazi führer with disdain and mistrust and doubted his capacity to run a government, given his complete lack of experience at doing so. The consensus about the Nazis’ wild-eyed promises was captured by the oft-repeated German proverb, “Nothing is eaten as hot as it’s cooked.”

Six years later, most Germans were acquiescing, and many of them were trying to benefit from, the complete humiliation and dispossession of German Jews, their demotion to “subjects” of the Reich, and their forced expulsion from the country. Three more years on, most Germans, including those elite corporate leaders and civil servants who scorned Hitler in 1933, were not just turning a blind eye to, but facilitating enslavement and mass murder… and finding a great many helpers in the Axis-occupied and Axis-allied regions of Europe.

The key to understanding the transformation of Germans’ behavior is straightforward: power magnifies the ideas of those who hold it. Power enabled the Nazi regime to unleash the haters, to intimidate the squeamish, and to change the moral valence of prejudice from something frowned upon to something glorified as patriotic. Once that happened, individual self-interest took care of the rest.

Above all, power enabled the propagandists for Nazism to divide the world relentlessly into Us vs. Them and to shut down more nuanced perspectives. To Germans, the world became a perpetual struggle between poor, virtuous, and victimized Us, and malevolent, conspiratorial, and implacable Them. In such an unforgiving environment, all means of self-defense were justified, including preemptively striking Them—taking their rights away, concentrating them in camps and ghettos, wiping them out—before they supposedly had a chance to do their worst.

Demonization of “Them” is always the first step toward persecution and genocide. And an essential prerequisite for demonization is its proponents’ sense of victimization, of having been or being about to be robbed of a birthright. The adherents of modern anti-semitism, not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe, were people displaced and diminished by the Industrial Revolution and threatened by the specter of communism. In our own day, the devotees of nativist populism, not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, are people declassed and disoriented by the digital revolution and alarmed by the rise of Islamism. Will they go the way of the Nazis toward ever escalating paranoia and persecution?

Only if governments help them. Populist movements, on their own, can’t make persecuting societies or generate genocides. These phenomena need office-holders to countenance, stimulate, and implement hatred. Only when powerful leaders choose to let discrimination and violence take hold, and then to accelerate these lusts, does systematic degradation, let alone mass murder, result.

That is the challenge the Holocaust poses all these years later: Which way will political leaders go? Toward feeding angry and vengeful segments of public opinion or toward promoting pluralism and progress? Because the prospects look chancy right now, we should all recall the words of another German proverb—“Beware the Beginnings”—and be ready to act on it.

Peter Hayes is professor of history and German and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation professor of Holocaust studies emeritus at Northwestern University. W. W. Norton & Co. published his new book,Why? Explaining the Holocaust, on Jan. 17.

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I am sharing this with you because we just celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trump made a statement in which he mentioned all of the victimized people except the Jews. The Jews do know they weren’t the only people to be targeted; so were the Gypsies and  the Poles, the disabled, Catholics and homosexuals. Six million Jews were gassed, burned, died due to medical experiments, died from starvation, disease and exposure to the elements.

 

It is very dangerous when a leader goes after one particular group of people; when people in power say the “others” were less than human, responsible for all of the things that Germans found wrong with their lives; these “others” were sneaky and not to be trusted. We now have a man in the White House who is targeting Muslims, refugees, homosexuals and non-Christians, in exactly the same way, with most of the same rhetoric. How much is he capable of doing? Is he able to begin to round up people from these groups? Only time will tell.

 

In the meantime, I want to remind everyone that we all live here on this fairly small planet. I do believe in science, and science tells us the planet is suffering from our lack of proper stewardship. We are all brothers and sisters despite the minor differences between us. Whether you are black, red, brown, yellow, or white, we are all equal. Yes, I know that some people  say there is a difference but they are wrong. Those who savor their entitlement want to be at the top of the heap, but we all make a beautiful colorful mix together at the bottom.

 

No one race is better than another, no one religion is better than another. There is no reason to defile Islam by shedding innocent lives. There is no reason to condemn Shiites or Sunnis. Each is a journey to Allah.  Or Adonai. Or Buddha. Or any of the other Beautiful Names which people use when they speak of God. We are all children of the Universe, made from stardust. It matters not by what name we call God. Our prayers are heard, our petitions are accepted, and our gratitude pleases.

 

I believe Trump wants to divide people even more than they already are. I believe it is important to unite together to give support to each other, so no one ever has to stand alone. I am ready to register as a Muslim. I hope many of you will be also. Let us do what is right not what is expected.

 

Namaste

Barbara

The Shame of the Muslim Ban


REUTERS/YEGANEH TORBATI

SHAME

Trump’s Border Patrol Defies Judge, U.S. Senator at Dulles Airport as His First Constitutional Crisis Unfolds

Legal immigrants and refugees from seven majority Muslim countries found themselves detained as they landed at Washington Dulles International Airport as President Trump’s half-baked Muslim ban went into effect over the weekend.

BETSY WOODRUFF

Late Saturday night, in the jam-packed baggage terminal for international arrivals at Washington Dulles International Airport, dozens of lawyers and hundreds of protesters watched as the first major Constitutional crisis of the Trump presidency played out. 

The day before, Trump signed an executive order barring people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. But many people traveling to the U.S. from those countries––including legal permanent residents of the U.S.––were already in the air and couldn’t turn around. As a result, airports across the country turned into lawfare zones, with cadres of volunteer lawyers squaring off against bureaucrats in the Customs and Border Protection agency. Late-night rulings from federal judges made a legally unprecedented situation even more dramatic, with all three branches of the federal government—congressional, executive, and judicial—warring with each other. At stake: the lives and safety of people trying to legally enter the U.S.

 At about 7:30 p.m., a boisterous crowd of several hundred pro-refugee protesters had circled around the “International Arrivals” baggage claim at Dulles—flanked by police who cleared a passageway so people getting off planes could get through. Protesters waved signs saying refugees were welcome (some signs read “Welcome” in Arabic), denouncing President Trump, and calling for Christians to show Christlike love to people fleeing terrorism. They carried “Welcome Home” balloons and they sang songs. 

And there were chants, including “Let them see their lawyers now!” 

There were dozens of lawyers, brought together by the International Refugee Assistance Project. A handful actually practiced immigration law, and dozens more with non-immigration backgrounds—bankruptcy, litigation, you name it—showed up to try to help. 

Early in the evening, a huge piece of news broke: Two federal judges, Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York and Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia, had made rulings that would stall the implementation of Trump’s anti-refugee executive order. 

For the lawyers at Dulles Airport, Brinkema’s ruling generated a ton of excitement. She ruled that the travelers detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had a right to see lawyers. 

After the ruling came out, lawyers bustled around, filling out forms declaring that detainees were their clients (someone had thought to bring a printer). Any minute, they expected, they would be able to see the detainees and try to help them get into the U.S. 

At this point, it wasn’t clear how many people were detained and which of them were legal permanent residents of the U.S. Lawyers didn’t even know all the names of the people they were trying to help. It wasn’t clear if some detainees had been put back on planes returning to their countries of origin, or if detainees had been shuttled off to immigrant detention centers in Northern Virginia. The travelers were all being held in what’s called “secondary inspection,” referred to as “secondary.” It’s part of the CBP screening process where lawyers are rarely, if ever, allowed to be present. 

But lawyers who spoke to The Daily Beast said it’s also unheard of for government agencies like CBP to prevent people who have the legal right to live in the U.S. from seeing their lawyers. And that’s what was happening. 

After Brinkema’s order came down, and lawyers at Dulles prepared to meet their new clients, the CBP balked, barring these lawyers from seeing their would-be clients.  

Time ticked. Protesters chanted. CBP officials were invisible; for hours, lawyers didn’t know if CBP officials at Dulles had even acknowledged Brinkema’s ruling existed. 

Lawyers wrung their hands. And then, slowly, detainees started trickling out, one or two at a time. One woman who had been detained doubled over sobbing as she walked through the crowd. She nearly collapsed onto a loved one. Another man who was detained, Javad Fotouhi, calmly fielded questions from a scrum of reporters about the four hours he spent in secondary. When CBP finally let him go, he said, they didn’t say why. 

“We saw elderly people and disabled people,” he said. 

Then two wheelchair-bound people—an 88-year-old man and his 83-year-old wife, both of whom have green cards, according to their granddaughter—came out. Their granddaughter, Pegah Rahmani (an American citizen who lives in Fairfax, Va.) doubled over to hug them. She told The Daily Beast that her grandmother had recently had a stroke and her grandfather was legally blind.

“They really weren’t treating them very nicely,” she said, of their time in detention. “They took a lot of their stuff.”

That included medication; neither of the feeble octogenarians had access to their meds, much less to lawyers. 

Another Iraqi man who was detained made a beeline out of the airport as soon as he was set free. Standing at the curb, he lit up a thin cigarette and told reporters that there was a family still detained, including a wheelchair-bound young woman with mental disabilities. 

As the night wore on, it became increasingly clear that CBP was defying Brinkema’s ruling. Lawyers concluded that that meant someone was in contempt of court. The judge could theoretically send in federal law enforcement officers to force CBP to let the lawyers meet with the detainees. But sending in the U.S. Marshals—who are part of the Department of Justice—to take on Customs and Border Patrol—which is part of the Department of Homeland Security—would have been a bureaucratic clash of the titans. And, like everything else that night, it would have been unprecedented. It didn’t happen.

Though detainees were slowly being released, lawyers were disturbed that they couldn’t meet with them. What if CBP tried to coerce detainees into signing paperwork that could jeopardize their legal status? Release wasn’t enough. A federal agency was defying a federal judge, and no one was quite sure what to do. 

Then at around 11:45 pm, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker showed up. 

He had come to get the travelers out of detention, “or at least access to an attorney,” he told The Daily Beast. 

Then he disappeared down a hallway blocked off by police, back to where the CBP officials had quarantined themselves. 

Booker stayed back there for about half an hour, and then he pushed through the crowd of roaring protesters and—flanked by glowering policemen—addressed the crowd. After a few opening words, he held up a copy of Brinkema’s order.

“I am now of the belief that though this was issued by the judicial branch, that it was violated tonight,” he said. “And so one of the things I will be doing is fighting to make sure that the executive branch abides by the law as it was issued in this state and around the nation. This will be an ongoing battle.”

The crowd cheered. 

“We see tonight what I believe is a clear violation of the Constitution,” he continued. “And so clearly tonight we have to commit ourselves to the longer fight. Clearly tonight, we have to commit ourselves to the cause of our country. Clearly tonight, we have to be determined to show this world what America is all about.” 

Asked by The Daily Beast what CBP officers had told him about why they wouldn’t let detainees see their lawyers. 

“They told me nothing, and it was unacceptable,” he said. “I believe it’s a Constitutional crisis, where the executive branch is not abiding by the law.” 

A source familiar with Booker’s exchange with CBP officials told The Daily Beast that officials with the agency refused to see him face to face. Instead, Booker wrote questions on a piece of paper which he handed to police officers, and those officers gave the paper—along with a copy of Brinkema’s ruling—to CBP officials. Those CBP officials then wrote out their answers to the senator’s questions, according to the source. The source described it as a half-written, half-spoken game of telephone. 

An executive agency defying the ruling of a federal judge, and a U.S. senator trying—unsuccessfully—to make that agency comply.

At the end of the night, there was at least one traveler still detained: a Syrian woman, who had a J-2 non-immigrant visa. Her husband is a doctor working at a hospital in D.C., and she had come to try to be with him. Her lawyer, Rob Robertson—a tall, large man with a pinkish chambray shirt, cargo pants, and a snowy white goatee—told The Daily Beast that he expected her to be taken to an ICE facility on Sunday, where an ICE agent would interview her to assess if she was truly afraid of going back to Syria. Robertson, who was representing her pro bono, said she would pass that interview process with no trouble; if she went back, she could be in serious danger. 

The woman’s husband, eyes bloodshot, implored Robertson: Would she be comfortable tonight?

He said she probably would, and he was optimistic that she would be free in two weeks or less. This isn’t Robertson’s first showdown with ICE, and won’t be his last. 

 “This is fun,” he said.
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If you are like me,  you have been watching the protests at airports across the country. I am horrified that people were stopped from getting on the planes to come home. I thought about the people who got off the plane tired and happy to be back only to find themselves being detained. Detained and questioned because they were Muslims.
 I can’t imagine what they were all feeling. Perhaps shock, anger, helpless, or scared. Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic were returning to Cleveland and they weren’t allowed in. There was a woman who was coming here to attend her child’s’ graduation. Some people have permanent established lives here in America. They have homes, families, and friends here. They are like you and I in every way except that they weren’t born here but in an Arabic country. An act of fate? You could have been born in Iraq.
The customs guards took their possessions and demanded to know all about their social media information and their cell phone numbers. This is illegal. Lawyers began to arrive to offer their services to these people Trump decided he doesn’t want here. they worked pro bono to help as much as they could. A husband and wife were detained until this morning. They were released in wheelchairs. One was blind and one had suffered a stroke. I am sure they were terrified.
The countries that these targeted Muslims were from countries that have never attacked America. The countries that have sent terrorists are not included in the ban. This makes the ban totally illogical as well as illegal.
Namaste
Barbara
afghani-boy                                                                                          Afghani boy smiling
muslingirl
                                                                                              Muslim girl with teddy bear
muslin-peoplejpeg

                                                                                 Muslims are human beings like you and me

This Should Not Be the Norm


Bill Courson wrote the following, and it so beautifully describes my feeling, I am re-posting it here.

Namaste,

Barbara

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I am not happy about what I have to write here, nor do I like feeling the way that I feel: but just days into the Trump administration, it grows more evident with each passing hour that we have become engaged in something that is very, very far from “business as usual.”

I simply cannot find words in English strong enough to describe the intensity with which I loathe almost everything that Donald Trump stands for, nor – more importantly – the fear that I have of his ability and his readiness to do serious harm to the country that “elected” him (more or less) into office.

I believe that he is an ongoing and grave danger to America, it’s people and it’s values.

Narcissist, sadist, racist, homophobic, neo-fascist and xenophobic, his is an energy that appeals to the very worst instincts in those around him.

A poisonous force that befouls everything and everyone in his presence, the character in literature he most calls to mind is the degenerate Gollum from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” In a single word, “toxic.”

It is no wonder that “they” – those foreign governments that covertly promoted his campaign for the Presidency – are those who would benefit most by a weakened, divided and retrograde America.

Tonight in the Kremlin, in the halls of power in Beijing and elsewhere, they are snickering at America’s ignorance and venality.

With each passing day the prospect for grave and irremediable harm to the country grows. Whether he is removed from office via impeachment or via a 25th Amendment “capacity” proceeding, my most earnest prayer now is for the speedy and successful termination of his stewardship.

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We Are Not Our Labels


I found this video on Facebook, and it perfectly explains what I have always thought:  Prejudice is learned.  We are all ONE race, the Human Race.   If we could remember that, and treat each other that way, think of what the world could be.

 

Namaste,

Barbara

 

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Water Protectors Won’t Give Up


 

Defiant As Ever, Water Protectors Vow To Continue The Fight Against The Dakota ‘Black Snake’ Pipeline

If Trump truly intends to end unnecessary violence, he must listen to the voices of Native American water protectors

STEPHEN YANG / REUTERS

On his fourth day in office, President Trump took executive action that signaled his desire to complete the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. He signed a memorandum ordering the Army secretary and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner… requests for approval to construct and operate the DAPL” as well as an executive order to “streamline and expedite” the environmental review and approval process for so-called “high priority infrastructure projects.”

Trump’s outrageous and provocative executive actions took many people by surprise — even the new Republican governor of North Dakota was not consulted before it was signed. People and water protectors we met with this week in Standing Rock were furious and fearful. Despite this, water protectors say they are very resilient and ready to continue their opposition to the pipeline that many call “the black snake.”

Since August, when the protests against the construction of the oil pipeline reached historic proportions and made major headlines, some Native-American water protectors and allies have been seriously injured by the indiscriminate use of life-threatening crowd-control weapons by law enforcement. Over 300 protestors have been hit with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and mace ― weapons that Physicians for Human Rights have reported can cause emotional, psychological, and physical harm to victims.  People across the globe witnessed much of this abuse through live video feeds shared through social media and footage taken by independent indigenous drone journalists.

ACLU

There has been little, if any, leadership from local authorities to curtail the well-documented abuses. The Morton Country Sheriff’s Department has not released any protocol or procedures for the use of potentially deadly crowd-control weapons. There has been a resounding lack of accountability for law enforcement agents and commanders. Thus far, no officer has been charged with excessive use of force, but over 600 protestors, and even journalists like Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, have been arrested for excessive and outrageous charges like criminal trespassing. Some were hit with outlandish felony charges and high bail bonds. More than likely, if state leaders do not require a significant change in policing tactics, law enforcement will only continue its violent and unconstitutional responses to largely peaceful protesters.

We’ve also seen law enforcement outsource their human rights abuses to private security contractors. This must be investigated, and the people responsible for releasing dogs on protestors should be held accountable. After all, even the Department of Justice has condemned the use of canines on unarmed individuals as “unreasonable.” While the Morton County Sheriff’s Department claimed last September that it created a multi-agency task force to investigate the use of force by DAPL security, we still do not know if anyone has been held accountable.

Recently, the Standing Rock Tribal Council called for the evacuation of the camps behind the Dakota Access Pipeline protests within 30 days, which means by February 19. However, the question remains whether law enforcement will use force to clear the camps and, whether on accident or with intent, injure or kill someone who refuses to leave in an act of civil disobedience.

The Morton County Police Department should adopt policies and practices for the deployment of crowd-control weapons that align with civil and human rights principles:

  • The use of crowd-control weapon should be an absolute last resort when dealing with genuine and imminent threats to the safety of those present, and only after all other means have been exhausted
  • The most effective method to prevent violence is to engage in negotiations and open a dialogue with protesters
  • Even if some protesters engage in or incite others to engage in acts of violence which require police intervention, the explicit goal of intervention should be to deescalate the situation and promote and protect the safety and the rights of those present — protestors, journalists, medical personnel, monitors, and bystanders
  • All deployment of crowd control weapons must be documented, and the reports retained for public record
  • Adequate training must be provided on the use of crowd-control weapons for out-of-state police to ensure a proportionate level of force is applied to the threat

 Adherence to these principles will help increase accountability, transparency, and the safety of everyone.

But where local law enforcement quickly resorts to the massive use of less-lethal weapons, it is the responsibility of the state and federal governments to step in. The state and federal governments must rein in the county sheriff and private security contractors, and they must immediately end any unlawful surveillance practices against individuals and groups expressing their right to free speech and peaceful assembly.

Until then, the ACLU will continue to monitor the situation through legal observers and will consider taking legal action including supporting the Water Protectors Legal Collaborative. We have also released an action requesting the public to call North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and urge him to do everything in his power to prevent police violence against Standing Rock water protectors. Using crowd control weapons will only exacerbate the injuries and trauma that has plagued Native American communities and water protectors since the pipeline protest intensified this past August.

In his inauguration speech, Donald Trump advocated for the immediate end of “American carnage” ravaging this country. That carnage is occurring right now at the hands of law enforcement in Standing Rock. If Trump truly intends to end unnecessary violence, he must listen to the voices of Native American water protectors and those who are supporting them at Standing Rock, and he must vow to protect their right to water, sacred sites, and their future development as sovereign nations.

Human decency requires it.

 

The attacks on the rights of the Native Americans to protect the little land the government hasn’t stolen continues.  The attacks on our Mother Earth in the name of Capitalism continue.

I continue to support the Water Protectors.

Will you?

Namaste,

Barbara

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