As President Trump elects to move forward with the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone Pipeline via executive order, one thing is clear: if we thought things were bad when protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline under President Obama, they will only get far worse under Trump.
Even under a Democratic president, protesters who sat at the Standing Rock reservation for many months hoping for an environmental victory were attacked again and again by police forces – referred to as Oil Police.
One protester’s arm was irreparably mangled by a grenade, while another water protector was blinded by non-lethal weapons used by police. On the protest’s darkest day, the oil police doused hundreds of water protectors with freezing water in below-freezing temperatures as they stood, trapped on a bridge. Because of this “non-lethal” tactic, hundreds were injured and many were hospitalized, including Sioux elders.
As the winter began to creep into the rough terrain, police forces continued to barricade roadways, making it nearly impossible for the water protectors to receive vital supplies meant to fortify the camp for extreme weather.
Through it all, President Obama remained disgustingly and disappointingly silent.
Can any sane person imagine that President Trump will do any better? Rather, we can expect a violent response from the President if and when the water protectors return to Standing Rock to defend, once again, sacred ground and vital water sources. But this time, it won’t be an unlucky few who are harmed.
Likely – even undoubtedly – if the protests continue, people will die.
Donald Trump made it clear many times during his candidacy and in the months following his election win that he has little to no respect for protest, peaceful or otherwise. When protesters entered his own rallies during the election, he suggested that they be beaten, threatened, and thrown out in the cold without a jacket.
Everyone remembers one time or another when a protester was violently assaulted during one of his rallies, or when Trump bragged that in the good old days, protesters would be treated “very roughly,” so that they might not ever protest again.
Even on Twitter, Trump has repeatedly denigrated protesters of every type, calling them “thugs,” and “criminals” and suggesting multiple times that they were paid to protest – either by Hillary Clinton or someone else.
Trump may claim in other times that he appreciates the need for peaceful protest, but when he views the protest as an affront to his decree – in this case, his executive order – there is no telling what extent he will go to in order to silence dissent.
Trump also differs from Obama in another way – he has an active, financial investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline being completed. If he has to kill a few enemies of the state to earn more cash, why wouldn’t he? After all, his fans say he’s such a great businessman.
Will we stand by as protesters are murdered for expressing their constitutional rights? Will we watch as Trump sends in the national guard to squash dissent? Will we allow the native Americans of this continent to once again be oppressed and suppressed?
If we do, the blood isn’t just on Trump’s hands – it is on ours.