At Standing Rock and Beyond, What Is to Be Done?

by Eric Martin

Near Cannon Ball, N.D. — “We love you!” yelled someone from our line, linked arm in arm.

We were facing Dakota Access Pipeline workers threatening us with baseball bats and wrenches, one of whom had only moments ago sped his large truck through our ranks. They had called us “the scum of the earth,” and replied to our assurance that we were nonviolent by warning, “We’re not.” A helicopter had appeared and begun circling low over our heads. And from this scene, one of the men who had not yet spoken sheepishly replied, “We love you, too.

We eventually parted ways, not in peace but at least not in physical violence. We had distracted them from further construction of the project that threatened to spill oil in the Lakota water supply and headed back to our cars to take part in a march through the streets of Bismarck, N.D. But amid all the movement, that moment stayed with me.

I had come with a group of Catholic Workers for reasons anyone studying or teaching theology as I do might find obvious. The violation of basic dignity happening here defies the consistent refrain by the prophets and Jesus to do justice with an eye toward the exploited. We had been told white bodies could help by surrounding native ones, shielding them while they sought to protect their water.

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