Originally published to It’s Going Down
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Three days after Trump won the election, an ongoing barricade and occupation was launched in Downtown Olympia, Washington that succeeded in stopping a train carrying materials used in fracking operations and destined for the Bakken oil fields (which in turn would funnel oil into the Dakota Access Pipeline). The occupation lasted for a week until it was shut down following a massive police raid in the middle of the night which led to clashes with law enforcement and several arrests.
Wanting to know more about how the occupation grew, interacted with the public, and organized itself, we sat down with 5 people from Olympia who talked about life on the barricades and how it represents a possible model for expanding the struggle against not only the Dakota Access Pipeline, but resource extraction in general.
Through our conversation, we learned more about the organization of the camp, which gives us many insights and lessons, as people within it were able to push for a foundational agreement not to talk to nor allow in law enforcement. Another strength of the camp was its general opacity to the city, the port, most media, politicians, and police in terms of negotiation, literal visibility, and messaging. While the ideology of the camp was anything but cohesive and unified; such things were also not necessary for the camp’s sustenance or for cooperative action. This helped stop a strict ideological commitment to nonviolence, despite the attempts of a few liberals to proclaim it as such.
Our guests also speak to how they dealt with both a far-Right member of the Oathkeepers in the camp as well as liberals who attempted to direct the struggle. The latter also pushed the idea that various communities are one unified block or abstract monolith possessing a uniform experience, politics, and prescriptions for action or lack thereof. Liberals who continually attempted to ratify their preferences for the blockade with the rubber stamp of “indigenous people say so” were several times contradicted, either flatly or obliquely, by people from local and faraway tribes.
As the situation at Standing Rock heats up and hundreds are injured in clashes with the police, many people are talking about how to act in solidarity. We hope that this interview can be a starting point for those looking to take action, wherever they are.
Music: Citizen Fish and Shining Soul.