The following is the text of an address given by Gary Goff of United States Labor Against the War (USLAW) at the “Standing with Standing Rock” rally held at Union Square in New York City on Tuesday, November 15. USLAW is a national organization of 165 unions, labor councils, state labor federations, allied labor organizations, and labor anti-war committees. Since 2003, it has sought to be the organized voice within the labor movement for peace and the demilitarization of U.S. foreign policy.
U.S. Labor Against the War expresses its outrage at the brutal actions of soldiers and police in riot gear aimed at suppressing the on-going campaign to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
The Standing Rock Sioux are fighting to protect the quality of their drinking water from the consequences of the reckless drive for private profit. Just as we stand with the people of Flint, who surely would have strongly protested had they known how their water would be poisoned by cost-cutting government decisions, we, and people all across the United States, are now standing with the Standing Rock Sioux. The fight for clean drinking water is shared in communities across this country.
The Standing Rock Sioux are also fighting to defend their culture, cultural identity, and the sovereignty of Native American tribes, and to compel the U.S. government to live up to the terms of treaties it has signed with them. In this, they have attracted Native people from across the country to come to North Dakota to stand with them. Just as we in USLAW have defended the Iraqi people’s right to independence and self-determination, we defend Native peoples’ sovereign rights.
Those seeking to block the pipeline are confronted by a highly militarized police force, and elements of the military as well, just as have countless communities of color across the country. The militarized response to peaceful protest is reminiscent of the ways in which Native Americans have historically been targeted by the military in a genocidal effort to erase their very existence from the face of America. Government deployment of militarized police alters the character of the political process, transforming protest into armed confrontation in which peaceful people are turned into enemy combatants.
U.S. Labor Against the War recognizes the central importance of independent journalism in the process of nurturing an informed population, a requirement of any democracy. We therefore condemn all police actions surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline aimed at suppressing independent journalism, from the arrests of Amy Goodman, Deia Schlosberg, and other journalists, to the shooting down of a drone launched by Water Protectors to document police actions.
We in USLAW again call for the end to the federal “1033 program,” Urban Shield war games and weapons expos, and all other channels by which the U.S. Department of Defense transfers military equipment – everything from guns, tear gas, and heavy weapons to armored vehicles, tanks, and aircraft – to local and state police forces.
We recognize that the workers building the pipeline need good-paying jobs; we stand with them in that aspiration and demand. The demands of these workers are no different from those in coal country and elsewhere in the fossil fuel industry, and those producing weapons for the military, which spends more than half of the entire annual discretionary federal budget, drawing resources away from underfunded but vital public needs. A massive investment in badly needed infrastructure and rapid transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy technologies will create far more good-paying union jobs than those associated with polluting oil pipelines.
Workers in these sectors, like all working people, should have jobs that provide a decent standard of living for performing work that genuinely serves our people. Yet corporations and the political representatives that advance their interests insist on creating and preserving a society in which working people have to depend on work that is destructive of the environment and squanders scarce resources.
We in USLAW take this opportunity to reiterate our demand for a just transition from a destructive economy to one that provides jobs and prosperity for all while respecting the environment and shrinking the military. Working people and frontline communities should not bear the social cost of moving to a demilitarized foreign policy and clean renewable energy sources. We stand with the Standing Rock Sioux, the construction workers who now depend on the pipeline for their livelihood, and all others whose lives will improve as we, together, organize the transition this country needs to move towards justice, demilitarized foreign policy, and a sustainable alternative energy system.