‘Legal fights are not over’: DAPL activists speak at La Peña Cultural Center

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Yukun Zhang/Staff

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Two Standing Rock activists, Chase Iron Eyes and Daniel Sheehan, held a discussion at La Peña Cultural Center on Friday about the current state of the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL.

The event was hosted by Lakota People’s Law Project. The speakers made a call to action to the crowded room about helping those facing charges after protesting at Standing Rock.

Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, is facing five years in prison for his participation in DAPL protests. Sheehan, a constitutional attorney, is working to get those charges dropped. There are 843 more charges against other DAPL protesters, according to Iron Eyes.

“When they come for your rights like they did at Standing Rock,” Iron Eyes said. “You do not have a choice. You cannot stand down.”

The two activists first played a video exposé about companies involved in building the pipeline. In the video, Sheehan said the pipeline will increase profits of the stock owners on the international market. He also claimed that the U.S. government acts in favor of the petroleum industry instead of the Sioux tribe and DAPL protesters.

“We have to intervene, and this has begun at Standing Rock. The people have risen up to stand in the way of a pipeline,” Sheehan said. “The president has demonstrated how they can ignore a resistance in favor of the petroleum industry.”

The pipeline stands after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to approve its construction as one of his first presidential actions. Iron Eyes urged the audience to sign a petition on Lakotalaw.org to ask the North Dakota State attorney to drop all the charges against the DAPL protesters.

“You have to go somewhere and find the power of peace, and that’s where you stand up against any injustice, no matter what the odds are,” Iron Eyes said. “Whatever is put in my path, I will just seek the guidance and protection to be ready for it.”

Jackie Fielder, a descendant of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and campaign coordinator of Lakota People’s Law Project, urged the audience not only to sign the petition but also to push cities to divest from banks and go toward public banking.

Jesse Phelps, communications and media consultant of Lakota People’s Law Project, described La Peña as an ally and thanked the center for hosting the event without charging a large fee.

“The most important element of these events is making sure that the movement remains alive and that people know these legal fights are not over, and that they have ramifications for all of us,”  Phelps said in an email. “We’re grateful also that the events also help us raise some money to combat the injustices in the Dakotas.”

Jessíca Jiménez covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.

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