By Shea Howell
December 5, 2016
On December 4, 2017 the Obama administration announced the department of the Army will not approve the Dakota Access pipeline easement to cross Lake Oahe. They will seek another route.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe “wholeheartedly support the decision.” Dave Archambault II, the Sioux Tribal Chairman said, “Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.”
On December 4, 1969 Fred Hampton was shot to death in his bed by Chicago Police. He was the Chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party (BPP). He was 21 years old. Fellow leader, Mark Clark was also killed and four other people were shot. Deborah Johnson, who was eight-and-a half-months pregnant had tried to cover Fred with her own body. She was pulled off by police who the shot Hampton in the head, twice.
The brutal attacks on the Black Panthers by local police and the FBI are now well documented as part of an orchestrated government policy to destroy the Party.
These two events, share more than the accident of a date.
Fred Hampton and the Water Protectors at Standing Rock were both labeled “violent” in order to justify the use of state violence against them.
The Cook County State Attorney, Edward Hanrahan, claimed the raid on Hampton’s apartment was necessary because of the “extreme viciousness of the Black Panther Party.” He claimed “The immediate, violent, criminal reaction of the occupants in shooting at announced police officers” and “ their refusal to cease firing at the police officers when urged to do so” justified their killings.
This lie was supported by the media, but exposed by the efforts of people to put forward truth. I was part of a group that conducted tours of the apartment so people could see with their own eyes the bullet holes and blood soaked bed where Hampton died.
The eviction notice to Standing Rock, delivered the day after Thanksgiving, made a similar claim. It said the “violence of protestors” required forced removal.
“This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”
It is now well documented that the violence at Standing Rock came from the police and security forces backing the Pipeline. “Officers from Morton County have subjected the Indigenous activists to extreme uses of force in recent days—including water cannons in subfreezing temperatures, mace, rubber bullets, and allegedly concussion grenades.”
Both the BPP and Water Protectors were struggling for resilient, responsible, self-determining communities. Fred Hampton was not killed because he carried a gun. He was killed because he carried books to ensure education, food to children who were hungry, and a message of peace to gang leaders and community members.
As we think of this victory at Standing Rock and the challenges ahead of us, Fred Hampton still offers us guidance. He said:
“We don’t think you fight fire with fire; we think you fight fire with water. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism…We’re going to have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace, because the people that we’re asking for peace, they are a bunch of megalomaniac warmongers, and they don’t even understand what peace means. And we’ve got to fight them. We’ve got to struggle with them to make them understand what peace means.”