Standing Rock Serves as Model for Future Protests
In a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that it would reroute the Dakota Access Pipeline away from native land. Though the Sioux’s success is still tentative — President-elect Donald Trump could pressure the Army to reverse the decision when he takes office — the announcement is a direct reflection of the power of public protest.
The Standing Rock Sioux and their collaborators from other native tribes — “water protectors” — led a highly effective protest campaign against the construction of a pipeline that would have risked pollution of their water and destroyed sacred sites. They drew thousands of allies to the camp in frigid temperatures. They remained peaceful when police wielded water hoses and dogs against them. They employed social media to spread information when the mainstream media ignored their campaign. They were resolute about their goals in face of three massive, faceless opponents: the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal government and Dakota Access, LLC. None of this work was easy.
The next time the Review publishes in February, Trump will be serving as the 45th president of the United States. While many students have voiced vehement opposition to his bigotry, volatility and tendencies toward despotism, many have also expressed uncertainty at how to make a difference. Particularly with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, and a likely conservative majority in the Supreme Court, it seems as if nothing can be done to stop Trump from carrying out regressive, dangerous policies. But students who doubt that their voices can alter the direction of his term should look to the Standing Rock Sioux as evidence that protest still works, no matter how grueling the process.
Rallies and protests are being planned all over the country to mark Trump’s inauguration day. The one that has garnered the most media attention is the Women’s March on D.C. planned for Jan. 21, to which hundreds of thousands of people have RSVPed on Facebook. Marches like these, as well as the nationwide protests that occurred in the days immediately following the election, have been criticized for not giving Trump a chance to introduce policy or take actions as president before denouncing him. This is a fair argument, and Democrats should seek compromise instead of stubbornly promoting obstructionism, a tactic Republicans have employed under President Barack Obama’s administration.
However, President-elect Trump has given us plenty to protest without setting foot in the Oval Office. His campaign’s promises to target Muslims, repeal Obamacare and ignore environmental crises should not be forgotten, and his cabinet and advisory appointments so far indicate that he intends to follow up on many of them.
But these issues are not yet done deals. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million, and even many of the people who cast ballots for Trump openly admit that they do not support much of what he has proposed. Trump does not have the support of the people, and we need to demonstrate that.
The point of protest is not to dispute election results. Trump was elected fairly in accordance to our Constitution. But public protests will prove to our legislators that they need to hold Trump accountable. Through protest, we can show marginalized communities that we stand with them. If Trump starts to break apart foreign alliances, we can prove to the world that he does not have the support of the American people.
Some writers have speculated that the Trump administration will bring with it a new era of progressive activism similar to the fight for Civil Rights or against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. This will be hard work. So as Jan. 20 approaches, call your representatives and tell them not to approve bigots for cabinet positions. Over break, attend city council meetings and ask how your local officials are going to protect immigrants. Join whatever local rallies may be occurring in your area around Inauguration Day. Prove that this is not Trump’s America — it’s the people’s America.