Caonillas, PR Resiliance

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Caonillas, Puerto Rico

On Saturday, we traveled into the small Puerto Rican town of Caonillas. A community surrounding Lake Caonillas, the town was highly damaged when Hurricane Maria came through the island. The road leading to the barrio were blocked off for nearly 4 weeks after the disaster first came through. Once the Puerto Rican National Guard and volunteers were able to clear the road of debris, emergency help was able to get into Caonillas, and begin providing aid.

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5 weeks since the hurricane, and located in the center of the island, the barrio continues to feel the aftershock of the storm. The one way road leading into Caonillas is still suffering landslides, the road continues to crumble down the mountains, and every time it rains, mud from the mudslides push earth and debris back into the road. The road into the barrio continues to be shut down every few days until the National Guard can arrive to try and fix the situation the best they can. There are 2 locations on the trip where the road had completely collapsed down into the valleys, and we had to travel through people's yards to reach the other end of the road to continue. 

 

 

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We traveled to the end of the road to a small community of families located in a small clearing between a smaller hill, and the 2 largest mountain top on the island. The housing locations were prime safety from mudslides, but put the families with no protection from the winds of the hurricane. At least one of the structures located on the land had vanished in the night. The wind took away the the building in such force that the families couldn't even locate one piece.

 

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When we arrived, the families were more than welcoming. Tony, the volunteer I had traveled up there with had made many supply drops to the families over the last couple weeks, and had built quite a relationship with them. A new structure had been put in place, complete with a black and white, hand painted Puerto Rican flag. This structure was were the families would cook their meals, and keep a gas generator to power the strongest structure in the compound. They had just killed a pig a few hours before, and we're cooking it in the structure when we arrived. They were more than insistent we eat with them, and we obliged. You never turn down a home cooked meal. 

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I spoke to the children about the hurricane, and whether or not they were scared. The oldest daughter told me that the parents tried to make all the children sleep through the storm. The second oldest, a boy told me that was nearly impossible for him, and he was very scared. I spent some time with the kids, taking photos of them, and showing them how my camera worked. They were all so excited to see cool pictures of themselves. I was excited to be able to make them have fun

 

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Although many of these communities are still struggling with the after effects of hurricane Maria, the resilience of these families are still strong. They still smile, and laugh, the children play, and the parents still cook. Even through the hard times, these families remind me how important it is to stick together through the hardest days.

 -RV 

Dakota Access Pipeline // NO DAPL timeline

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Excerpts taken from ABC news, with updates from this page marked with *

Dec. 2014 — Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners applies to the federal government to build the 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline to carry half a million barrels of North Dakota oil daily through the Dakotas and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. The proposed route skirts the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's reservation and crosses under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas that serves as the tribe's drinking water source.

 

*It's important to note that the pipeline was originally scheduled to run through Bismarck, North Dakota. It was then rerouted near Standing Rock after the community of Bismarck were concerned about its placement near the town. In 2014, the SRST were recorded on audio recordings stating that they do not approve of the pipeline.

 

April 2016 — Opponents establish a camp in southern North Dakota for peaceful protest. Camps in the area would later swell to thousands of people.

 

July 2016 — The Army Corps of Engineers grants pipeline permits at more than 200 water crossings. The Standing Rock Sioux sues. The Cheyenne River, Oglala and Yankton Sioux tribes later join as plaintiffs.

 

Aug. 10 — North Dakota authorities make the first arrests of protesters. The total eventually reaches 761 over more than six months. Those arrested include actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, neither of whom ends up serving jail time.

 

Sept. 9 — U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., denies an attempt by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt pipeline construction. The same day, the Army, the Department of Justice and the Interior Department declare that construction bordering or under Lake Oahe won't go forward pending further review.

 

Nov. 20, 21 — Authorities use tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprays on protesters who they say assaulted officers with rocks and burning logs at a blockaded bridge, in one of the most violent clashes of the protest. At least 17 protesters are taken to hospitals. One officer was injured when struck in the head with a rock.

 

*Using the term clash is incorrect. More like attack from law enforcement. There was a barrier with miles of barb wire between law enforcement and water protectors. There was 0 physical contact between the sides. Water Protectors were attacked while standing in resistance, on the other side of a fortress of concrete blocks and razor wire.

 

Dec. 4 — Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy declines to allow the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe in part because she says alternate routes need to be considered. ETP accuses President Barack Obama's administration of delaying the matter until he leaves office.

 

*ETP continued to operate regardless

 

*Alternate routes could have been considered in 2014, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe first opposed the pipeline.

 

Jan. 18, 2017 — The Corps launches a full environmental study of the disputed Lake Oahe crossing that could take up to two years to complete. Boasberg rejects an ETP request to stop the study.

 

*Environmental Impact Studies are not allowed to be stopped once they have been started by anyone besides the President. The President can only stop an EIS if they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt why it was not needed. This was violated.

 

Jan. 24 — President Donald Trump signs an executive action to advance the pipeline's construction.

 

*A Federal judge deemed this a violation

 

Feb. 8 — The Army forgoes further study and grants an easement necessary to complete the pipeline. Crews immediately begin drilling under Lake Oahe.

 

*Forgoing the study is a violation

 

Feb. 22-23 — Authorities clear out the last remaining holdouts in the main protest camps in southern North Dakota in advance of spring flooding season.

 

March 10 — Pipeline opponents rally in Washington, D.C., demonstrating outside the White House and Trump's Washington hotel.

 

March 20 — ETP announces "coordinated physical attacks" along the pipeline. Authorities in South Dakota and Iowa confirm people apparently used a torch to burn holes through empty sections of the pipeline at aboveground shut-off valve sites.

 

April 4 — The pipeline leaks 84 gallons of oil at a rural pump station in South Dakota. Federal data released in May showed that the pipeline and a feeder line leaked more than 100 gallons of oil in North Dakota in separate incidents in March. All of the spills were cleaned up.

 

April 29 — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum asks Trump for a presidential disaster declaration to pave the way for federal reimbursement of protest policing costs. Trump later rejects the request.

 

May — Documents leaked to an online magazine show that TigerSwan, a private security firm hired by ETP, conducted an aggressive, multifaceted operation against protesters that included a close working relationship with public law enforcement.

 

*While operating illegally in the state

 

June 1 — The pipeline begins shipping oil.

 

June 14 — Boasberg orders the Corps to do more environmental assessment of the pipeline's impact on the Standing Rock Sioux. The Corps estimates the work will take until April 2018.

 

June 27 — North Dakota's Private Investigative and Security Board sues TigerSwan for operating in the state without a license. TigerSwan says it's the victim of a smear campaign.

 

*TigerSwan attempted smear campaigns by setting up counter propaganda pages used to sway public opinion through false information

 

Aug. 22 — ETP sues Greenpeace and other groups, alleging they disseminated false and misleading information about the project and interfered with its construction. ETP seeks damages that could approach $1 billion. Greenpeace says the suit is meritless.

 

*This is corporations of attempt of silencing environmental voices

 

Sept. 20 — North Dakota regulators approve an agreement settling allegations that ETP violated state rules during construction. It includes no fine and no admission of liability by the company.

 

*The state extorted ETP by having them donate $15,000 to the preservation society in exchange of admittance of guilt

 

Sept. 27 — Archambault is defeated in his bid for re-election as tribal chairman.

 

Sept. 28 — ETP gives North Dakota $15 million to help pay an estimated $43 million in protest policing bills. The state four days earlier had received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department for the same purpose.

 

*For months, the state refused the donation, questioning its legality. Once a loophole was found, the corporation was able to pay the state back for law enforcement expenses. I.E. the corporation paid for law enforcement.

 

Oct. 10 — The North Dakota Pipeline Authority says the pipeline boosted the state's tax revenues by about $19 million in its first three months of operation.

 

*nearly none of that $19M is going to citizens of North Dakota

 

Oct. 10 — U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in Bismarck, North Dakota, dismisses a lawsuit filed by twenty-one North Dakota landowners who alleged ETP and a consultant used deceit and fraud to acquire land easements.

 

*^^^^ Pay close attention to that

 

Oct. 11 — Boasberg rules that the pipeline can continue operating while more court-ordered study is completed to assess its environmental impact on the Standing Rock Sioux.

Militarized Corporations and The Death of Peaceful Protest // Part 2: Oil Police

In the first part of this essay, we began to touch on the relationship between Energy Transfer Partners, and the local, state, and regional law enforcement. How they worked together to make sure people weren't allowed to have a voice in peaceful and prayerful resistance against fossil fuels. I guess the next step is to just start talking about all the illegal, wrong, and just plain weird things that happened in the name of "Justice".

-A good starting point would be identification. I arrived at Standing Rock in October of 2016, and was present until even after all the camps had closed. At some point early in the movement, the law enforcement decided to quit identifying themselves. Half of the police force would hide their faces from public. Hidden behind the masks were 99% white males. At some point they must have had a meeting, or sent out some bulletin to stop wearing name tags to identify officers. You would ask them for their name, and they would not respond. When people were being arrested, arresting officers would put an officer number, and not a name. I documented what was taking place by law enforcement for nearly 6 months. I don't recall EVER seeing a name tag located on an officer, or ever heard an officer give a name. Now, I want that to sink in...

...sink in yet?

...Ok, now remember that over 50 different law enforcement groups showed up to Standing Rock. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana Nebraska, highway patrol, state patrol, sheriffs, policemen, swat units, the list goes on and on. As far as a recall, I never witnessed an identification tag on any of them. The police claim that it was out of fear of being harassed. On the contrary tho, law enforcement did a lot of things that would be considered criminal, but officers couldnt be held accountable BECAUSE NOBODY COULD VERIFY WHICH ONE OF THEM DID IT. From what I have been told, the same could officers have been the "arresting officers" at most of the court cases regarding the arrests of Water Protectors. A couple fall guys to help protect the rest of the group for persecution for things they may or may have not done on their frontlines.. 

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Damn. That was 2 paragraphs, and all we did was discuss identification. This essay may be long. 

-The very first action I went to document was on 10/10. Indigenous Peoples day, and 'Eagle and Condor Day', a day when tribes from both North America, and South America met at a Dakota Access construction site. The event was based around the connection of the two cultures, and to pray together at the pipeline. When we arrived the construction workers were a good quarter mile up the path of the dirt road. There were pieces of the pipeline scattered near the entrance, but the construction team was a pretty good distance away. Far enough to say they couldnt possibly be threatened. Water Protectors set up tipi pole structure near the entrance of the pipeline path from the road. Inside the tipi, Water Protectors sat down and began to pray. I assume people expected the police to show up. They did. They came marching down the street in formation. Being followed by a school bus style bus being driven by a member of the national guard, the police set up a wall of officers between the people praying, and the supporters on the public roadside. Since this was the Eagle meets the Condor Day, the Aztecs still came out and celebrated the day with dance. In front of the officers, the Aztec wore full regalia, and danced traditional steps in support for the tribes praying in the tipi a couple hundred meters away. Police stood between the 2 groups. Those in the tipi were not near any construction workers, touch any of the pipes, but were just there praying. The police gave the Water Protectors in the tipi about a half hour of time. Then from a side road, 2 vans with tinted windows pulled up and parked near the tipi. One by one police began to arrest people in the tipi. An elder with her chanupa. A legal observer. And then a 19 year old girl. If you check part 1 of this article, you can see a photo where an officer had his knee on her neck while arresting her. Thats a civil violation. Officers are trained not to put knees on peoples heads when arresting them. It can cause spinal damage, and has been banned. This was after they dragged her out of the tipi. When nobody is wearing a name tag, its hard to hold that cop accountable for it...so...

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Well, its 3AM, and I'm tired. Trying to paint a picture of what was taking place in North Dakota is going to take quite a while, and trying to explain all the messed up things that law enforcement did out there is going to take a lot longer than expected at this rate. Shit, I just covered the tip of the iceberg, and its already 5 paragraphs or so in. Either way, I'm not going to sum it all up tonight.

Part 3 coming soon, I guess.