It Is Time For President Obama To Stop The DAPL And Protect Our Water [Opinion]

It’s like a page out of a 1960s playbook. Environmental activists are protesting against large corporations seeking to destroy the earth. Young people are risking their lives to march against greed. Militarized police spraying water at protesters in sub-freezing temperatures, sending many of them to the hospital. And finally, a young woman critically injured by a concussion grenade.

On Monday, Sophia Wilanski, an environmental activist from New York, was hit with a concussion grenade while handing out bottles of water to DAPL protestors. Jordan Chariton of The Young Turks posted a grisly photo of Wilanski’s arm on his Facebook page. Conflicting reports regarding her gruesome injury initially said her arm had to be amputated, but later reports state that doctors were able to save her arm.

Mainstream media has failed to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and it is time they started. In early November, President Obama said he’d let the situation “play out” for another few weeks before doing anything. A young woman nearly lost her life and her arm. Multiple people have been hurt. And not a single one of them has fired a shot or shown aggression against their oppressors.

And still, President Obama does nothing.

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He is, quite literally, a lame duck, seemingly unable to act against the interests of corporate oligarchies. Although the mainstream media is touching the DAPL protests as little as possible, they are a frequent topic of discussion on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Lily Starling, a member of the REAL Bernie Sanders Activists #NeverHillary group, wrote a statement to Obama that sums up the feelings many anti-DAPL people are feeling right now.

“Tonight cements your legacy as the leader who allowed peaceful citizens of this country to be maimed and likely killed on U.S. soil to protect the interests of a corporation that is a direct contributor to climate change and environmental disaster.”

“You have presided over the brutalization, degradation, and illegal seizure of Native people and their land. I am deeply ashamed to call you my President … Your silence is your legacy. And it is yours.”

Starling then called for President Obama to “show this country” that he is actually a man who cares about Americans over corporate interests.

On Friday, the Obama administration said a decision would come “later,” according to a report in Vibe. This statement gives a sense of false hope to those far removed from North Dakota, where the protesters are battling against militarized police forces. For all intents and purposes, the project is complete except the one critical step of drilling the tunnel beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. And yet President Obama’s administration is playing the waiting game.

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The violence against the water protectors who have set up camp near the DAPL construction has built up over the last several months. As the anti-DAPL sentiment has grown in strength and volume, so has North Dakota’s violent response to them. Governor Dalrymple has sent law enforcement from all over the state to Standing Rock. He also managed to convince seven other states to send their own police forces to stand against the water protectors under an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, according to Yes! magazine.

And still, President Obama remains silent. And still, water protectors stand their ground against the desecration of their sacred burial grounds. What is Obama waiting for?

Protesters have gathered peacefully without weapons at Standing Rock for several months, handcuffing themselves to heavy equipment and enduring inhumane treatment at the hands of the police. “Divergent” star Shailene Woodley revealed that after her arrest protesting the DAPL, she was strip searched before being put in jail, according to Democracy Now.

Indigenous water protectors have also reported being strip searched and thrown into what they called “dog kennels” without any bedding overnight. They also had numbers drawn on their arms. The claim was confirmed by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department itself, which said they put up “temporary holding cells” at the correctional center, according to Heavy.

Although Sophia Wilanski isn’t the only water protector to be injured while protesting against the DAPL, but she is the first to be so seriously injured. A Go Fund Me has generated nearly $160,000 in just 15 hours as of this writing. Nearly 6,000 people have made donations in support of Wilanski and the fight against the DAPL. And still, President Obama remains silent on the issue.

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Last week Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spoke out against the DAPL on a visit to Standing Rock. He spoke about the illegal actions of Energy Transfer Partners in its quest to stubbornly complete the DAPL.

“I’ve been an environmental attorney for 30 years and I’ve been fighting these battles and I know what they’r doing is illegal … they’re trying to build this pipeline fast so that they don’t have to face their day in court so they can say, ‘It’s already built, yeah we trampled a few laws, but it’s already built.”

Kennedy later appeared on Thom Hartmann’s “The Big Picture” on RT and stated that President-elect Donald Trump has a $2 million stake in the DAPL, which means it is almost certain he will approve the pipeline. It also means he could deal harshly with the water protectors. His investment, Kennedy said, also means he will likely re-open the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Obama put at end after a contentious showdown with protesters.

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Kennedy claimed that Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the DAPL, is violating federal law in its rush to complete the pipeline because it is required to file an environmental impact statement. He told Hartmann that the owners of the DAPL are using a provision of the Environmental Policy Act that is meant to be used for small projects, not a 1,700-mile project like the DAPL.

“What they’re trying to get away with is just illegal under the Act. And the way they did it … was they segmented the pipe so they made it into lots of little pipes instead of one long pipe.”

The time has long since come for President Obama to stand up and finally be a man of the people. He is passing up a golden opportunity to express solidarity with the water protectors who are putting their lives on the line against the DAPL. Obama can remain silent no longer as his silence equals approval and approval of an environmental disaster sends the message to the people that maybe he never really cared.

[Featured Image by LM Otero/AP Images]