By Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan
Standing firm in their sacred and sovereign land, the ongoing civil disobedience and protests by the Water Protectors of Oceti Sakowin Oyate (the Great Sioux Nation) in North Dakota are nothing short of inspiring. Standing Rock has been standing for all of us as they protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that would pump millions of barrels of crude oil across sacred ancestral lands without the consent or consultation of the sovereign nation of the tribe. The pipeline would not only destroy their community, disrupt their sacred ground, risk the extinction of water sources and land cultivation, but also challenges the very essence of life, tradition, ritual and community. This is not an isolated fight. This is a struggle connected to so many others that we are all involved in, because this is about colonialism, the corporate state, environmental justice and land rights, racial justice and imperialism.
NLG members have been on the ground organizing legal support at Standing Rock since the beginning, helping form the Water Protector Legal Collective (formerly Red Owl). Representatives from numerous Guild committees have been involved, including Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Environmental Human Rights, Mass Defense, Labor & Employment, and Environmental Justice. Despite being hours away from any major transportation hub and limited technological and communications access, Guild members have managed to organize ongoing legal support for those who have been arrested and detained, including helping lift a temporary injunction on protests.
Arrests have exceeded 260, and many more are expected as state and corporate repression continues. Journalists have been targeted, especially those attempting to film police behavior and tactics. Volunteering weeks of their time, Guild lawyers and the Water Protector Legal Collective have been serving in rotating shifts to legal observe and provide criminal defense support to those who are literally putting their lives on the line to save what is most sacred to life.
If you are able to volunteer or would like to learn more, please contact email@example.com. It is moments like this that define us, where we rise or fall together. Let’s rise up! ■
EDITOR’S NOTE: As this issue was going to print, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. In response, Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan shared this message:
Many of us woke up to a reality different from the one we expected. Many have expressed deep mourning and fear. However, as a progressive legal community, we know that regardless of what the outcome would’ve been, we would still be standing in solidarity and providing legal support to movements.
As an organization that values human rights over property interests, the National Lawyers Guild’s relentless defense of those rights will always be needed. As our nearly 80 years as an organization have shown, we will resist and we will overcome. In response to possible deepening government abuse and repression, peoples’ movements will develop creative strategies to resist, organize, and hold corporate and government officials accountable. We will collectively learn new ways of defiance and as we have stood in solidarity with peoples’ democratic movements across the world, they will stand now with us. We will openly question the legitimacy of our government when necessary. We will support those who disobey it’s institutions when necessary. We will create alternatives to oppressive institutions and structures. We will call out and hold accountable those with tyrannical dispositions. We will organize and educate and teach with a new passion and focus. We will build community in ways perhaps we haven’t yet needed to, and it will be transformative for our work. We are not the first nor the last to face the threat of enhanced repressive tactics targeting communities of color, LGBTTIQ, people with disabilities, women and gender-non conforming individuals, Muslims and immigrants, and we will overcome it together.
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, President, National Lawyers Guild