rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Police violence at Standing Rock shows America still addicted to frontier justice

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Image: Twitter (uncredited)

The woman being brutalized by America's finest in the photograph is an elderly person holding a prayer staff. Local authorities claim that she was brandishing a gun. She is one of a number of "water protectors" who have been protesting the laying of an oil pipeline that threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Lakota and Dakota reservation. (A brief background to the conflict may be found here.)

It is instructive to compare and contrast the obscene brutality of the cops and security guards at Standing Rock against unarmed protesters with the kid-gloves treatment accorded to heavily-armed white supremacists and sovereign-citizen fanatics who seized federal land by force of arms on two recent occasions.

The first incident took place in Nevada: a rancher named Cliven Bundy, and numerous armed militiamen, held off federal law enforcement to defend his "right" to graze his cattle on federal land without paying a fee. The second was in Oregon, where Ammon Bundy, Cliven's son, led a squad of violent vigilantes to occupy Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

For the white folks, it was all patience, negotiations, and now an astounding jury verdict that has the effect of legalizing the armed seizure of federal property. The elder Bundy is incarcerated awaiting trial in the Nevada case (along with his sons Ammon and Ryan and a number of other gunsels), but he continues to graze his livestock illegally on federal land.

The Standing Rock protests in North Dakota, however, have been smashed, with the liberal use of dogs, batons and pepper spray. Media coverage has been all but absent, but possibly with reason: North Dakota has issued arrest warrants for journalists who have dared to cover the protests. (In the case of well-known reporter Amy Goodman, the state prosecutor so absurdly over-reached himself that a judge refused to play along.)

What can we see here but a recapitulation of the American frontier justice of the 1800s, when armed white men were the law, and "hostiles," a.k.a. "Injuns," were their fair game? The difference in the official treatment of gun-toting white insurrectionists (including their recent acquittal by a jury of their peers) with what happens to Indigenous people asserting their own sovereignty, is stark.

In this connection, we might want to remind ourselves that unarmed American Native people are shot by police at an even greater rate than African Americans. The frontier battles continue; the Wild West has not yet been tamed; and, as has always been the case in America, armed might makes right.

Like this article? Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: Twitter (uncredited)

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.