[P2P-F] Fwd: Criminalising Standing Rock

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Mon Jul 3 08:08:00 CEST 2017

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Frank Barat <russelltribunaluk at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 6:23 PM
Subject: Criminalising Standing Rock
To: Frank Barat RToP <RussellTribunalUK at gmail.com>


Criminalising Standing Rock
It is not the first time US government has used all means necessary to
stifle activism and resistance.[image: Listen to this page using



[image: A protester in a standoff with police during a protest of the
Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation [Stephanie
Keith/Reuters]]A protester in a standoff with police during a protest of
the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation
[Stephanie Keith/Reuters]
<http://www.aljazeera.com/profile/frank-barat.html>byFrank Barat

Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London, UK and is
coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The recent revelations of the Intercept, exposing how the US government is
treating environmental activism at Standing Rock
an "insurgency", should not come as a surprise. The Intercept's
investigation reveals that security firm TigerSwan has been working closely
with at least five states to target the protesters of the Standing Rock
camp as "jihadists", aiming to destroy and delegitimise the whole movement
and those standing in solidarity with it.

But this is not the first time that governments and corporations have used
any means necessary to keep the status quo in place. And it won't be the
*A long history of criminalising activism*
WATCH: US police arrest Dakota pipeline protesters (1:40)

On March 8, 1971, a group of activists known as the Citizens' Commission to
Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, stole
a huge stash of files and passed them on to the media. The most significant
element in the stolen materials was a file mentioning the word "COINTELPRO

This break-in exposed one of the most secretive programmes put together by
the FBI <http://www.aljazeera.com/topics/organisations/fbi.html> at that

Originally created in 1956 to "increase factionalism, cause disruptions and
win defections" inside the Communist Party in the US, the
COunterINTELligencePROgram slowly diverted most of its resources to target
other groups and individuals that the FBI deemed subversive. These included
the Black Panthers, the Civil Rights Movements, the feminist movement, the
anti-war movement, the anti-colonialist movement, activists from the
American Indian Movement and many others.

The programme used methods such as infiltration, psychological warfare,
illegal force and harassment to destroy, often from the inside, any form of
resistance to the status quo. The assassination of Fred Hampton, one of the
leaders of the Black Panther Party, on December 4, 1969, was part of a
COINTELPRO operation.

OPINION: North Dakota pipeline protest is a harbinger of many more

While the covert programme officially ended in April 1971, recent history
has shown that the FBI and other government agencies have never stopped
using the tactics that formed the core of the programme. In fact, quite the
opposite has happened and the methods used by governments, institutions and
corporations to "pacify" the masses have become more and more sophisticated
with time.

A couple of years ago, journalist Will Potter exposed
fact that environmental and animal rights activists were now considered as
the number-one domestic threat in the US and are often prosecuted as
criminals. He highlighted that this had happened thanks to the concerted
lobby efforts by corporations that have promoted the notion of

History has proven that it takes time, a lot of patience and many
sacrifices to achieve radical change, but that at the end of the day, the
power is with the many, not with the few.

But the US government is by far not the sole perpetrator of such crimes.
Many other countries, often including western "democracies", are treating
concerned citizens in the same manner. A telling example is the way the UK
government and police infiltrated
environmental movement to pre-empt environmental action and protests.

Governments have upped their repressive game criminalising whole movements,
like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS
<http://america.aljazeera.com/topics/topic/issue/bds-movement.html>) and
solidarity with refugees' movements in Europe
<http://www.aljazeera.com/topics/regions/europe.html>. Security forces have
increased the brutality with which they put down protests, as has happened
in France <http://www.aljazeera.com/topics/country/france.html>, where a
police crackdown on peaceful demonstrations against labour law changes led
to dozens of protesters being injured. And overall, there have been broad
attempts to delegitimise any form of radical resistance to power across the

These are all clear reminders to activists that challenging hegemony will
come at a very high price.

It is crucial to understand and treat these actions not as random acts but
as part of a broader context of repression and pacification of civil
society. There is a global pushback against activism or what some have
called "shrinking space
<https://www.tni.org/en/publication/on-shrinking-space>", and this process
has taken different forms. The methods used can be pure repression
(violence against human rights
<http://www.aljazeera.com/topics/categories/human_rights.html> defenders,
attacks on freedom of assembly, movement, speech ...) or include more
subtle approaches, such as philanthropic protectionism and exclusion of
organisations and charities from the banking system.

*'We are not losing'*

But everything is not as bleak as it sounds. The fact that governments have
to resort to contractors and private companies to do their dirty and often
illegal work needs to be understood for what it is.

While they were able, even though secretly, to do this themselves a few
decades ago, the actions of many, or sometimes of a few (whistleblowers,
for example), have had an impact.

OPINION: How media did and did not report on Standing Rock

Over the past few decades, activists, protesters and whistleblowers
challenged the hegemonic vision of the world imposed on us by governments,
institutions and the corporate media by putting forward the narratives of
the "powerless". They told a different story and made sure that the world
listened to what they were saying. Movements such as Occupy
<http://america.aljazeera.com/topics/topic/issue/occupy.html>, the
Indignados and Reclaim the Streets offered a taste of what is possible. And
these very real and concrete actions made government programmes such as
COINTELPRO nearly impossible.

Even though it might sometimes look like we are, as the human civilisation,
going backwards, faced with more racism, bigotry, chauvinism and hatred
every day; and even though it often feels like victories are insignificant
when compared with defeats and that the balance of power is very much on
the side of states and corporations, we are certainly not losing and the
fact that we have to face more repressive measures every day means that our
enemies are scared and take us very seriously.

History has proven that it takes time, a lot of patience and many
sacrifices to achieve radical change, but that at the end of the day, the
power is with the many, not with the few.

*Frank Barat is coordinator of the War & Pacification programme at the
Transnational Institute.*

*The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.*

*"Freedom is a constant struggle"*
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