Democracy Today

See what is happening across America regarding democracy in early 2017.

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…these marches have made one thing clear: the fight for equality is not over.”

The Women’s Marches, the protests against the Muslim ban as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline are only few of several movements happening across America right now. There have also been science marches protesting the fact that funding for certain organizations has been cut-off, websites of scientific fact (such as the climate change tab on the White House’s web page) have vanished and the ability to present adress the public has been restricted. Marches to stand up for Obamacare have occurred, led by Senator Bernie Sanders and other congressional democrats. There is outrage about this new administration across all forms of social media. Every American citizen is very lucky indeed to live in the country we do because we are granted the right to peacefully protest a government or anything we feel is unjust. From the march from Selma to Montgomery to the Women’s March on Washington we, as American citizens, have the power to make change in this nation of ours.

The Dakota Access Pipeline

Karina Patterson

For months, there were protests held over the nation including a social media war regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline also called, Bakken Oil Pipeline. There is controversy around the fact that this pipeline threatens the safety of the drinking water for the people in the area, it crosses over sacred land to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and several other issues.The official lawsuit complaint filed by the Standing Rock Sioux (represented by Earthjustice) on July 27, 2016 stated “…the Corps violated multiple environmental and historic preservation statutes, focusing on the decision to reroute the pipeline from Bismarck, North Dakota to the doorstep of the Standing Rock reservation without an adequate environmental analysis and consultation.” This issue struck people all across the nation in various ways including many politicians, human rights activists, environmentalists and even some celebrities. The protests were not always peaceful, there have been several cases of injured people and hundreds of arrests. Conflicts between Native Americans and the American government/people have gone on for decades and will likely continue for many years to come unfortunately.


Centuries of Conflict

America prides itself on being the home of the free and the land of the brave yet we have discriminated against and have mistreated Native Americans since the Europeans first made contact with the Americas. Native Americans are also known as “Indians” but in this one word they are stripped of their identity. For they are not “Indians” but Cherokees, Wampanoags, Pequots, Pomeroy, Sioux, Iroquois, Shawnee, Apache and hundreds more. The term Native American would be more appropriate to use when grouping because they were truly the first Americans.

One of the first (and last) major conflicts between early Americans and Natives was King Philip’s War, also known as Metacomet’s War (Philip was the English name given to Chief Metacomet). This was the most fatal war in all of American history. Although it did not have the death toll the Civil War had, it killed more of the population of people than the Civil War, therefore, the most fatal. About 2,500 colonists died during the battle which, at that time, accounted for about thirty percent of the population and nearly twice as many Natives from numerous different tribes, including the Wampanoags, died. This historic battle also marked the last attempt that tribes in southern New England made to get rid of the European invaders.

Throughout Colonial America there was continued violent conflict between the colonists and their Native neighbors. One of the most famous moments where there was little to no conflict between settlers and Natives was the first Thanksgiving. When that holiday comes to mind many people think of lots of delicious food, families gathering and settlers with their buckled hats and shoes and “Indians” with their painted faces and their large feather hats. This image is taught to small children in schools throughout the country but it is in fact, incorrect.


The depiction of a Native American in this famous painting does not describe a Native from the Wampanoag tribe or even a Native on the east coast. The stereotypical image of “Indians” in big feather hats and living in teepees does not at all apply to all Native Americans but more to the nomadic Natives of the Great Plains. To generalize all Native Americans into one group would be very difficult because each tribe is very unique.

Before European contact in the late 1400s, there was an estimate of nearly 50 to 100 million Natives throughout the Americas. Europeans are infamously unclean and unhealthy which meant they carried many germs that they had over time become immune to but the millions of people on the land they were about to inhabit had never been exposed to such germs. When the word genocide appears people may think of the Holocaust where six millions Jewish people were killed or the Rwandan genocide where 800,000 people were killed but one of the largest genocides ever took place right here on American soil. Within just a few generations after European contact, nearly 20 million Native Americans had died of disease. The question of labeling it genocide has been debated since the spread of disease was almost always unintentional (with a few deliberate attempts). Nonetheless, about 95% of the Native population died of diseases including the fatal smallpox, scarlet fever, whooping cough, influenza and several more.

Tensions grew as years went on and especially hit a peak in the 1830s when Andrew Jackson put in place an “Indian removal policy”. This forced tens of thousands of Natives to leave their homelands and migrate west. The migration was very vigorous and very fatal, over four thousand of the fifteen thousand Cherokees that moved died during the trek. After that, Natives were forced to assimilate to American culture and were (still are) discriminated against. Natives are now forced to live on reservations which are run by the particular tribe which lives there even though it is located on US soil. They are sovereign nations within the United States but are not treated as such.

The Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline would span 1,172 miles and would transport shale oil from the North Dakota Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Illinois. One of the biggest problems seen was the route of the actual pipeline.

The concern was this structure would contaminate drinking water and damage sacred burial sites. As one can see,the pipeline would cross right under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe only half a mile away from the reservation. If the pipeline were to spill or leak, it would contaminate the reservations source of water for 8,200 people, “The pipeline would pump an estimated 17,000 gallons of oil per minute underneath this water source, which would be devastated by a spill or leak.” Secondly, any construction for the pipeline would damage sacred burial sites of their ancestors. Although that land is technically not part of their permitable owned land, the tribe argues that the land was unjustly taken from them over the last hundred or so years.

This was not the original route of the pipeline. It was originally to be crossed through the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota. Karen Van Vossen stated that the plan was rejected due to the realization that Bismarck’s water supply would possibly have been in jeopardy, “… we never even in Bismarck had to make an objection. The pathway was moved away from our drinking supply without our even needing to go to a meeting or write a letter.” However, when the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested the new route of the pipeline, they were ignored by authorities and eventually filed a lawsuit. The people also argue that the US government should have consulted extensively with the tribe about the issues regarding this project yet chose to ignore their voice of concern, “As journalist Aura Bogado explains, at the core of this dispute is the concept of “tribal sovereignty.” The US government is supposed to have a “government-to-government” relationship with native tribes — not run roughshod over them.”

Since March of 2016, protests have occurred regarding the halt to the pipeline. Thousands of Native Americans aligned with the Standing Rock Sioux. The protests have also gathered many environmentalists and climate activists for they fight for blocking fossil fuel infrastructure due to the environmental risks. This pipeline was a result of the advances made in fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is “the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.” Fracking leads to many environmental dangers such as impact on air pollution, the contamination of groundwater, exposure to toxic chemicals, large volume water use in water-deficient regions and many other environmental and health issues. Climate change would also be extremely impacted with the construction of this pipeline. The oil extracted from the pipeline would eventually be burned sending 101.4 million metric tons of CO2 into the air each year. Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out against this pipeline and warned of the environmental dangers, “ “if we have any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, we should not be building new oil pipelines that lock us into burning fossil fuels for generations to come.”

The protests did eventually lead to violence. When bulldozers were brought to the site to begin digging part of the pipeline route, unarmed protesters crossed the perimeter fence to block the bulldozers but were met with pepper spray and guard dogs. This incident left at least thirty people pepper sprayed and a handful treated for dog bites. Amy Goodman from Democracy Now filmed the occurrence providing proof of the dog attacks. There were also several more severe cases of violence towards the protesters by police forces. At one point, law-enforcements were even using water cannons on protesters in freezing weather which sent about twenty-six people to the hospital with cases of hypothermia or bone fractures. Rubber bullets and tear gas were also utilized by law-enforcements. There were over one hundred protesters arrested. There was some violence from the protesters side, including a police report of protesters setting a dozen fires near a bridge.

Despite the nearly nation-wide opposition to this pipeline, there are people in favor of the pipeline. One argument for being pro-pipeline is the thousands of jobs it would create for American citizens. It is expected to create about 12,000 jobs and would flood money into American industries that manufacture steel pipes and other related materials. The money that would also go to Illinois, Iowa and North and South Dakota could also increase money towards improving emergency service, schools and roads in those states. This pipeline could also potentially assist the US in becoming more energy efficient. It is also said that the pipeline is more environmental friendly than transporting oil by railway. It is less likely to result in spills and accidents such as the derailment of a train transporting oil forcing a North Dakota town to be evacuated in May of 2015.

This controversy can truly be lead back to two of the most controversial topics: treatment of minorities and the treatment of the Earth. It has been proven time and time again that minorities, in this great nation of ours, seem to be missing out on the civil liberties many enjoy merely due to their race, their beliefs, their sexuality or anything which sets them apart from the norm. Treating the planet we live on with respect should be a given yet somehow it has been assumed that humans may do whatever they please with this planet and ignore the consequences. Climate change is one of the most debated topics in politics today even though the scientific evidence is as clear as day. However in this particular case it seemed as though the Standing Rock Sioux had won their battle for both humanity and the environment in early December. After nearly a year of protests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to look at alternative routes for the pipeline so it would no longer pass under Lake Oahe. This victory occurred under the Obama presidential administration but as of January 20th, 2017 the Trump administration began. Trump signed an executive order to not only advance the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline but the Keystone XL pipeline as well. Both pipelines were in the process of being blocked by his predecessor.

This must have been a crushing moment for the Standing Rock Sioux people and they came back with a response to the new president, “President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement. “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream.”

Not only have protests against the pipeline surged up again, but protests around the world against this new presidency have begun. Trump’s inauguration was January 20th, 2017 and only within 24 hours of his presidency the record had already been broken for the largest inaugural protest in history. People have been protesting for weeks now against his presidency and certain unconstitutional executive orders.


Muslim Ban

Éamonn Graeme

In the past days of President Trump’s administration, there have a been total of 20 executive orders. An executive order is when the president can enact a law that immediately comes into effect, it can only be blocked by the Supreme Court. One such executive order was a travel ban for Muslims from countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria. This caused a major outcry by millions of people nationwide. It resulted in many protests occurring across the country at various airports, including at Bradley International, JFK, and Logan International. Many people were suddenly not allowed into the country, even if they were law abiding citizens. Social media has been used as an outlet to voice concern for what is happening. #MuslimBan has been used across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for people to voice concern and try to help. Also assisting aid were lawyers going into various airports, working pro-bono, trying to help reunite families.

This ban included the indefinite suspension of of the Syrian refugee program, the complete ban of anyone coming from Muslim majority countries such as  Syria, Iran, and Iraq, and a religious test, also known as the prioritization of refugee claims based on religion. There has been a lot of conversation as to if this is truly a Muslim ban under the guise of “Immigration enforcement.” This is the main conversation that has taken center stage with many voices being introduced to the conversation. The high stakes of this is important to note, this is more so a war of words and intellect rather than physical violence. These protests, while large in size, have been entirely peaceful, which proves positive in regards to their cause. It shows that through intellect and conversation, change and conversation can be provoked. It has caused so much outcry and is just one of the many executive orders that have caused such controversy. Such as, an alleged executive order which would reverse the historic marriage equality law put forth by the Obama administration. While this order was never confirmed nor denied it would surely have surged many more protests throughout America. These last few months, the right to protest has been utilized by people not only across America, but across the world.

Women’s Marches Shake the World

Carly Detmers

The United States’ 2016 presidential elections left the country divided. Many were left with feelings of anger, but more importantly, fear. Fear for women’s rights, fear for LQBTQIA rights, fear for abortion rights, fear for worker’s rights, fear for racial equality, fear for the disabled, fear for immigrants, fear for freedom of religion, fear for the natural environment, and fear for the healthcare system.

On January 21, 2017, just one day after the inauguration of the new president, millions across the world came together to demand their voices be heard. And heard they were.  

There had been reportedly 408 planned marches in the U.S. and 168 in other countries. The world ended up being rocked by 673 reported marches, which took place on all seven continents. It is estimated that 5 million people participated in the movement.

Some of the most noteworthy marches took place in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.. This march drew a crowd of at least 500,000, which has been named the Women’s March on Washington, and is the largest political demonstration since the anti-Vietnam War protests back in the 60s and 70s.

The marches were also attended by a significant number of prominent people in today’s society. Politicians like Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at the march in Boston, and Kamala Harris, who addressed the crowd in Washington, were present, along with eminent figures like Emma Watson, Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Keys, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore and Cher.

In some areas, such as D.C., the crowds became so large it became difficult to physically march. Despite the enormous turnout, the protests were fully peaceful and no arrests were made.

For centuries, the fight for equality has been real. The country has come a long way from it’s establishment in 1776. African Americans have the right to vote, women have the right to vote, segregation is illegal, abortion is legal, immigrants are ensured rights, church and state are separate, and same sex marriage is legal. However, these marches have made one thing clear: the fight for equality is not over.


Articles written with assist of online sources, info. available upon request