[Pnews] 'Treating protest as terrorism': US plans crackdown on Keystone XL activists

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 20 11:45:57 EDT 2018


  'Treating protest as terrorism': US plans crackdown on Keystone XL

Will Parrish <https://www.theguardian.com/profile/will-parrish> and Sam 
Levin <https://www.theguardian.com/profile/sam-levin>- Thu 20 Sep 


Angeline Cheek is preparing for disaster. The indigenous organizer from 
the Fort Peck reservation in Montana 
fears that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline 
could break and spill, destroy her tribe’s water, and desecrate sacred 
Native American sites.

But environmental catastrophe is not the most immediate threat.

The government has characterized pipeline opponents like her as 
“extremists” and violent criminals and warned of potential “terrorism”, 
according to recently released records.

The documents suggested that police were organizing to launch an 
aggressive response to possible Keystone protests, echoing the actions 
against the Standing Rock movement in North Dakota. There, officers 
engaged in intense surveillance 
and faced widespread accusations of excessive force 
and brutality 

“We have to stay one step ahead at all times,” said Cheek, a Hunkpapa 
and Oglala Lakota activist and teacher. “History is repeating itself.”

The proposed TransCanada project would carry a daily load of 830,000 
barrels of oil over 1,204 miles – from Alberta, Canada to Montana, South 
Dakota and Nebraska 
linking to the existing Keystone pipeline and Texas refineries. The path 
of the project, which was revived by Donald Trump last year 
would cross dozens of rivers and streams and run near a number of Native 
American reservations, sparking legal challenges and a judge’s recent 
for a full environmental review.

If the pipeline gets final approvals and construction advances in the 
coming months, some are anticipating massive demonstrations similar to 
the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline (Dapl). That conflict 
galvanized a global movement 
but also led to FBI monitoring 
and the prolonged prosecution 
of hundreds of activists.

obtained by the ACLU of Montana and reviewed by the Guardian have 
renewed concerns from civil rights advocates about the government’s 
treatment of indigenous activists known as water protectors.

Notably, one record 
revealed that authorities hosted a recent “anti-terrorism” training 
session in Montana. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the 
Federal Emergency Management Agency also organized a “field force 
operations” training to teach “mass-arrest procedures”, “riot-control 
formations” and other “crowd-control methods”.

A US justice department intelligence specialist told the Guardian the 
terrorism training was an annual presentation not specific to Keystone. 
But the ACLU noted that its records request was specifically about the 
pipeline protests, suggesting that authorities considered the session 
relevant to Keystone preparation.

The repeated 
at Standing Rock led to a litany of charges, but hundreds were 
eventually dismissed 
due to lack of evidence. Police deployed water cannons 
tear gas grenades 
bean bag rounds and a wide array of weapons in North Dakota.

“Many of our residents were in Standing Rock, and they saw the level of 
violence that could be visited on us,” said Remi Bald Eagle, the 
intergovernmental affairs coordinator of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, 
which is located along the Keystone route. “There’s a level of anxiety 
and fear because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The ACLU of Montana, which filed a lawsuit 
<https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/aclu-v-dod-complaint-0> this month 
against the government seeking Keystone records, earlier obtained a DHS 
that said pipeline protesters were engaged in “criminal disruptions and 
violent incidents”. The report included two past cases of alleged 
“environmental rights extremists” committing violence.

But the events in question – a 2012 bombing 
and a 2015 shootout 
with police – had no clear links to any environmental protests, said 
Mike German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for 

“Treating protest as terrorism is highly problematic,” said German, 
noting that the US government has long labeled 
activism as “terrorism”, once claiming that filing public records 
requests was an “extremist” tactic. “It’s an effective way of 
suppressing protest activity and creating an enormous burden for people 
who want to go out and express their concerns.”

The “terrorist” and “extremist” labels can be used to justify brutality 
and a militarized operation, said Andrea Carter, an attorney with the 
Water Protector Legal Collective, a group that has represented Standing 
Rock defendants.

“It’s a really egregious tactic,” she said, noting that the labels also 
lay the groundwork for prosecutors to turn low-level misdemeanor cases 
into federal felony trials. “A lot of it has to do with public relations.”

The Montana documents have also shone a light on the coordination 
between governments across state lines, raising questions about how 
extensively law enforcement was devoting resources to Keystone protests 
before they had materialized. An email from the Montana fish, wildlife 
and parks department from earlier this year said state officials had 
conducted “extensive conversations with North Dakota to learn what 
worked and what didn’t work” when responding to Dapl demonstrations.

Montana authorities have done further done training sessions on 
harnessing social media and have begun monitoring posts of anti-pipeline 
activists, a sheriff said at one meeting, according to a local news report.

The records also highlighted the existing relationships between law 
enforcement and TransCanada. A county sheriff included a TransCanada 
executive on communications about one law enforcement training. In 
August 2017, the Montana Petroleum Association, a trade group, also 
hosted a panel on “environmental activism” in the state, featuring three 
law enforcement officers alongside TransCanada’s senior security adviser.

Rachel Lederman, a civil rights lawyer representing Standing Rock 
in a civil case, said it was alarming to see that law enforcement from 
North Dakota was giving advice about future pipeline protests: “They are 
instant experts on quashing the indigenous insurgency. It’s very, very 
concerning, because what happened at Standing Rock was just a wholesale 
violation of civil rights.”

John Barnes, a Montana justice department spokesman, defended the 
preparation efforts, saying in an email to the Guardian that authorities 
were committed to protecting “the first amendment rights of everyone 
while also protecting private property and public safety”. He added: “In 
North Dakota, bad actors associated with the Dakota Access pipeline 
protests maliciously targeted public officials and law-enforcement 
personnel online, and so it is important that people be prepared here.”

Some activists said the law enforcement tactics would not deter them 
from Keystone opposition efforts – whether in court or on the ground.

“We’ve got a lot against us. We’re the underdog,” said Lance Four Star, 
the Fort Peck Assiniboine council chairman, who recounted a recent 
incident of harassment and heckling by a pro-pipeline, pro-Trump group 
while the tribe was doing a ceremony. “I may never see the results of my 
efforts in my lifetime, but hopefully our grandchildren will. What we’re 
protecting now is this water we inherited.”

Peck said she was also concerned about a potential increase in violence 
against indigenous women 
stemming from the “man camps” where oil workers live. But the Montana 
wildlife department appeared to minimize this concern in one of the 
records, saying, “Although man-camps bring a certain degree of law 
enforcement challenges, the primary enforcement focus is protest activity.”

Organizers have discussed a “variety of strategies” to oppose 
construction, including “prayer camps” similar to Standing Rock, said 
Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Joye Braun, who organized against 
Dapl and has been involved in Keystone efforts.

“Clearly, they’re scared of the power of our movement,” she said, adding 
that she accepted the reality that she may be under surveillance when 
she travels the pipeline route to meet activists. “We haven’t gone 
anywhere, and we’re just building momentum.”

Native Americans know the risks are immense. But the “terrorism” label 
would not intimidate them, said Leoyla Cowboy, the wife of Little 
Feather, who was recently sentenced to three years in federal prison 
for “civil disorder” at Standing Rock.

“As indigenous people, it’s embedded in our DNA. It’s our obligation to 
stand up.”

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863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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