Shining a spotlight on DAPL

Cindy Beringer reports from Austin on protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline as people around the country prepare for a day of solidarity action on November 15.

Native Americans lead a demonstration in Austin against all pipelines from Texas to Standing RockNative Americans lead a demonstration in Austin against all pipelines from Texas to Standing Rock

INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock in North Dakota is finding support across the country, as activists on the front lines of the struggle faced a police crackdown in recent weeks.

A national day of action on November 15 in solidarity with the Standing Rock water protectors is expected to turn out supporters in some 200 cities.

A coalition of climate justice groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth and 350.org, have joined the call for the action to demand that the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama administration reject the final permit for the DAPL and stop construction of the pipeline.

The determination to protest fossil fuel extraction policies that pollute Native lands is even more urgent given the election of Donald Trump, someone who is decidedly not a friend of the environment or Indigenous people.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

OVER THE last several weeks, activists in cities around the country have organized protests to show their solidary.

On November 3, people in Austin, Texas, took the fight against Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)--the company behind DAPL and several pipelines in East Texas--to a regular commission meeting at the Texas Parks and Recreation headquarters.

At the protest, organized by Texas Environmental Justice, some 200 angry pipeline protesters and water protectors, including many Native Americans, gathered before the break of dawn on a small hill across from the building entrances. Many dressed in blue to show their respect for water rights.

Park rangers tried unsuccessfully to prevent chanting protesters from spilling across the street and lining the entrances where employees and meeting attendees had to enter.

Among the meeting attendees was ETP Chair and CEO Kelcy Warren. Warren donated more than $700,000 to elect Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who in turn appointed Warren to the Parks and Wildlife Commission.

During an awards ceremony in the first hour of the meeting, protesters sang, chanted and listened to speakers on the hill outside. "We are at war with capitalism and corporate interests," said one speaker. Another speaker pointed out that the meeting inside was directly opposed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife's mission, adding that a large percentage of the oil and gas extracted from pristine areas is for export.

At the end of the program, protesters moved close in behind the banners to form a half circle just outside the meeting, ramping up the volume, chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho! Kelcy Warren's got to go."

When the regular commission meeting started, several protesters who had signed up earlier to speak went inside while chanting continued outside. On the agenda was a vote on a request to grant a pipeline easement in the J.D. Wildlife Management Area in East Texas for the installation of up to six refined petrochemical product pipelines involving 640 acres near the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Austin musician Sarah Hickman asked Warren to recuse himself from this decision because of a conflict of interest involving his monetary donations to the Texas governor. Warren remained silent while several speakers accused him of crimes against nature, the horrible treatment of the DAPL protesters and crimes against Native Americans.

Near the end of the public testimony, Mescalero Apache and Society of Native Nations board member Pete Hefflin spoke directly to Warren, and asked him to address the destruction of ancestral graves in North Dakota.

Warren said he didn't believe graves were disturbed, but protesters were shocked when he promised to meet Hefflin and the organization to discuss the issue further. Another surprise came when Warren said that he thought he should recuse himself from the vote on the pipeline issue. At that point, another woman rescued herself, denying a quorum to vote on the issue. Protesters will be at the next meeting.

Native American Jacalyn Hagans announced other protests this month and vowed to continue until Warren was removed from his post with the Parks and Wildlife Commission.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IT'S BEEN a rough time for Warren, who lives in a 27,200-square-foot castle in the same Dallas community as George W. Bush. Until the year 2000, the community was restricted to white people only, except for servants.

One of Warren's favorite pastimes is donating huge blocks of money to local, state and national conservative politicians. ETP has its own PAC, which lavishes contributions on Republican candidates in Texas as well as the Dakotas and a few other lucky states.

Warren is also a music lover who has recording studios in Austin and Cherokee, Texas. He puts on the Cherokee Creek Music Festival--no doubt without any sense of irony in that title--and his favorite musician is singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.

In 2013, Warren's label, Music Road Records, released the album Looking into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. Browne knew nothing of Warren's other hobby, Energy Transfer Partners, and its requisite destruction of Native lands and peoples.

Browne is now one of 13 artists who signed a letter to Warren that they will no longer play at his music festival. Browne will donate the proceeds of records from Music Road to the pipeline protesters. The Indigo Girls are also boycotting Warren's music festival and are actively aiding the DAPL protesters.

Outing Kelcy Warren as the monster behind DAPL, putting a name and a face on evil, is a good strategy. November 3 was also the day that Democracy Now! broke the story of Warren's music festival.

It was a bad day for billionaires. May Warren have many more.

Elizabeth Schulte contributed to this article.