On December 18, two water protectors including a native youth were arrested at a water ceremony near active Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction site in Fayette County, Illinois.
In October Energy Transfer Corporation (ETCO) stated that construction of the DAPL was 100% complete in Illinois. However, after visual survey we found many active construction sites in the state. One such site is at the location where the pipeline was recently pulled under the Kaskaskia River, between the towns of Shobonier and Pittsburg IL, just off county road 900.
On Sunday, December 18, water protectors from different communities across the state of Illinois, lead by Lakota activists, met for a rally in Effingham, IL and then caravanned to conduct a water ceremony at the Kaskaskia River crossing. The ceremony was an important act of collective prayer and solidarity in response to efforts by ETCO to cover up the violent attacks on people, land and water.
Water Protectors were met with an authoritarian presence; dozens of police and private unmarked security vehicles that followed our caravan from Effingham to Shobonier. Police set up a blockade across county road 900, and blocked off several other public county and township roads, including county road 375 E which leads to the construction site where crews are working to finalize the river crossing. None of these street closings were marked and no detour routes were provided. Our caravan was stopped and denied access to several public county and township roads in the area. When we tried to exit our cars and walk along the road we were surrounded by police as well as private security and immediately threatened with arrest. Several men in civilian clothing approached water protectors to take closeup photographs of us, as well as photographing the license plates of all the cars. We made efforts to ask for accommodation for the ceremony as well as access to public roads, invoking our rights to assembly and religious freedom (location here).
Under threat of imminent arrest, we were ordered by police to drive to county road 300, more than a mile away, where police officers repeatedly stated we would be able to park, gather and conduct ceremony at the pipeline crossing without any interference and harassment. This was not the case. At the conclusion of the ceremony, as darkness fell, police surrounded us and unjustly arrested two water protectors including a native youth and a media person. Both arrestees were released within hours on bond and legal guardianship of the youth.
Construction of DAPL in Illinois is not complete, and once again we see that police continue to work on behalf of ETCO, using intimidation and repression against water protectors. We will continue to fight them. There are many ways to fight: construction is not complete, permits can still be challenged and rescinded, the divestment campaign is still mounting, and we have found that DAPL has disturbed several Indigenous burial sites along the pipeline route. We call on communities across Illinois to commit to stopping this and all other pipelines, and to upholding the sovereignty and self-determination of native peoples across Turtle Island.
No more extraction, pipelines or bomb trains on stolen lands!
No more repression against native peoples and water protectors!
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