New evidence leaked over the weekend proved what many water protectors already suspected: private security and local police used surveillance and other counter-terrorism measures against their peaceful resistance of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Standing Rock Sioux land. (Read The Intercept article here).

All over the world, fossil fuel companies have a violent history of doing whatever it takes to reap their profits. This is no exception. It’s unacceptable that water protectors and climate activists were treated like criminals while the fossil fuel industry puts our land, water, climate and futures at risk every day.

Standing Rock, an indigenous-led resistance, is a part of a growing global movement against pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure. This newly released evidence demonstrates that our movements are clearly seen as a threat to the fossil fuel industry (and the governments that support them). Many who were at Standing Rock suspected these tactics were being used. But leaked documents from TigerSwan, the mercenary security firm hired by the pipeline company, were shocking in their details.

These documents compared anti-pipeline fighters to “terrorists” and “Jihadi fighters.” In addition, peaceful #NoDAPL direct actions were called “attacks” and the camps called a “battlefield.” This language reveals not only how legal peaceful protest in America is being criminalized — but also how it’s being framed as a threat to national security.

Referring to those who were part of the hundreds of Native tribes, and their many allies, as terrorists, gave the security forces permission to use war-like tactics against civilians. The peaceful defense of water does not warrant a militarized response.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. Police forces are growing increasingly militarized while states across the U.S. pass laws criminalizing protest. The line between private mercenaries and public law enforcement grows thinner by the day. These types of security partnerships have been used for decades, however it’s still deeply alarming that a Fortune 500 oil and gas company coordinated its efforts with local, state and federal law enforcement to undermine our protest movement.

We are not the enemy. We should not be treated as criminals or have tactics of war used against us. Corporations that poison our water and our bodies — and partner with private security and police forces to attack peaceful protesters with pepper spray, water cannons and dogs — are the ones who are unleashing terror.

They fear the future we represent: a powerful resistance to the recklessness and destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry. A bold push for a renewable energy economy that works for everyone, not just the rich. A society that honors Indigenous land rights and respects people’s relationship to the land, water and air we all need.

They’re scared of the strength of our voices together as we rise up to greet this future.

– Sabelo Narasimhan

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