Back in September, Janie Coverdell traveled to Standing Rock from Eugene to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Inspired by the activism she took part in there and by the lack of media attention at the time, she decided to return last month.
On Nov. 20, Coverdell was one of the protesters tear-gassed as water protectors and law enforcement clashed. Coverdell, who is of Tlingit descent, was there in below freezing temperatures as police began to shoot water at protesters as well as rubber bullets and tear gas.
On Nov. 25, Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center together with the Water Protectors Legal Collective announced that it was filing a class action suit against the police as well as a motion and memorandum in support of a temporary restraining order against the police.
People from all over the country have traveled to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to aid the Sioux tribe in resisting the oil pipeline. The tribe says it is concerned the pipe could leak and contaminate the Missouri River. The tribe also says it was not adequately consulted until the project was underway.
Coverdell tells EW she and her brother were in the thick of the Sunday night protests. “Unarmed women fell to their knees telling police they loved them and were praying for their generations, too. A police officer walked up and used high-pressure pepper spray right in their faces while their hands were in the air.”
Coverdell says, “I followed police and called them out every time they approached peaceful protectors, and as I drew attention to them for harming unarmed people the police would actually back off.”
Coverdell says she was tear-gassed and sprayed with a water cannon. Her stomach and throat still hurt. she adds.
The water protector suit says it arises from the curtailment of the water protectors’ First (free speech) and Fourth (illegal search and seizure) amendment rights by “using highly dangerous Specialty Impact Munitions (SIM), explosive teargas grenades, teargas canisters and a water cannon spraying high pressure water, as a means of dispersing protests and prayer ceremonies associated with opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
Police have denied using concussion grenades, but the father of 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky — who was severely injured that night and might lose her arm — contradicts that. “There’s multiple witnesses and my daughter, who was completely conscious, said they threw a grenade right at her,” Wayne Wilansky says in an Associated Press report.
The Community Alliance of Lane County, Eugene Stands with Standing Rock and other local groups have announced a nonviolent and peaceful week of action in solidarity with Standing Rock.
Events include a rally at noon Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Army Corps of Engineers, 211 E. 7th Avenue, a 6 pm Dec 4 candlelight vigil and “Canupa Prayer Ceremony” in Kesey Square, 10 E. Broadway (“everyone bring a candle and your intentions for peace”) and a noon Dec. 5 “call to action” with speakers and music in the Federal Building Plaza, 211 E. 7th Avenue, followed by a march to banks funding the pipeline.
At 6 pm Friday, Dec. 9, Hi-Fi Music Hall, 44 E. 7th Avenue, hosts a community-wide benefit for water protectors with speakers, comedians, live music and more. Speakers include Mayor-elect Lucy Vinis, Daphne Singingtree, who just returned from Standing Rock, and Cooper Brinson of the CLDC, who will speak about his and Lauren Regan’s experience providing ongoing legal assistance at Standing Rock. $15 at the door.
You can find Coverdell’s GoFundMe raising money for her trip to the protest at goo.gl/dbrblp.