S1 Episode 7 – Fighting Dirty – Standing Rock

S1 Episode 7 – Fighting Dirty – Standing Rock

What would you do if someone wanted to bulldoze an oil pipeline through your country, threatening not just your land, but your water and air? And what if the nation backing them had a history of playing dirty? That’s the situation the people in today’s episode found themselves in. The battle over building an oil pipeline in Standing Rock in South Dakota, USA. Should they take the high road? Or respond in kind?

Some of the thousands of indigenous leaders and supporters at Standing Rock

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Full Transcript of Episode 7 Fighting Dirty

LADONNA: Have you ever heard of an LRAD machine?

INTERVIEWER: No. Tell me, tell me what it is.

LADONNA: This is what the military use and it makes this kind of a weird noise. And it causes you to lose your equilibrium [37.34] fall down and throw up.

HOST: That’s the LRAD (Lrod) Sound Cannon. It was one of many high tech devices that the police used against the people we’re talking to in today’s episode.

But even though the devices were high tech, it was just a new way of doing something very old. Because today there is one quality about the people protesting that changes the rules of engagement entirely.

HOST: I’m Amanda Tattersall, welcome to Changemakers, supported by Mobilisation Lab. They connect social change campaigners with what works. Check them out at MobLab.io.

I’m not going to tell you where this story comes from. Not yet, anyway. Instead, we’re going to go all the way back to the beginning of this story, back in time two centuries. Let’s go.

HOST: What would you do if someone invaded your country? Would you accept it, or would you fight?

Now imagine that the country that keeps invading yours, signs a peace treaty. You’d expect them to honour that treaty, right?

But what if they didn’t. What would you do then?

HOST: This story starts in 1851.

It’s a territorial dispute. There are nine nations, basically at war with each other.

For decades they’ve been arguing over who gets what land.

One of them was a nation you might have heard of, called The United States. The people from the US, were moving west across the vast North American continent, looking to expand into land that belonged to various tribes.

The problem the United States faced was this: militarily they weren’t the strongest force on the frontier.

JULIAN:  it was really the Comanche who…were the important geo- geopolitical power in…that, that sort of southern part of the plains.

HOST: Julian Brave Noisecat is an historian at Columbia University. So, anyway, the United States, realising military reality, cut a deal. It was called the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

JULIAN: And basically, in, in part of an effort to protect settlers who are moving westward, the United States government signs this treaty, acknowledging the, the sovereignty and, and claims of the nations who live al- live along the path to, to that area.

HOST: All nine independent nations agreed on the boundaries. It was settled, it became law, and after a few more battles and skirmishes, 17 years later, the boundaries were set in stone.

JULIAN: The 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty…actually came after Red Cloud’s war which…many historians will tell you, the, the Lakota and Dakota, sometimes called the Sioux, were actually the victors of, so the, the treaty…sort of gave them fairly favourable…terms of, of what their reservation lands would be, and what their rights to those lands were.

HOST: And let’s be quite clear here. It’s not the piece of paper that’s granting the Sioux sovereignty.

JULIAN: So from the indigenous perspective, it would not, it would not be that the treaties granted sovereignty. Indigenous people will tell you that we have been sovereigns since time immemorial. We had our own governments, we had our own…you know, languages. We had our own cultures.

HOST: The treaties were about the United States Government claiming sovereignty, while recognising the pre-existing sovereignty of the indigenous nations.

JULIAN: they were far out-numbered and far outgunned by the indigenous nations of this continent, they had no choice but to recognize their authority to land and people and goods.

HOST: Usually, when a nation has sovereignty, it means that they get to decide what happens to the land, right? After all, that’s what a treaty is.

HOST: Having signed the treaties, almost immediately, the US government ignores them.

JULIAN: Before the ink is even really dry on this treaty, gold is discovered in the Black Hills. This is the Lakota people’s sacred Black Hills. And the treaty is almost immediately violated by, by prospectors and, and settlers who come rushing in.

HOST: I know you’re shocked. It’s almost like the so-called “Settlers” didn’t actually respect the treaty or something.

JULIAN: to a certain extent it’s, it’s, it’s sort of an unstoppable force, right. These people are land hungry. You know they see land and the opportunity to create a farm as, as an escape from, you know, poverty in Europe so it’s seen as this, you know, land of opportunity. The overwhelming demand of, of the settler masses in these countries is to have access to indigenous land.

HOST: At the very least, you’d expect that a treaty between nations should mean that if there is a violent dispute between them, they are understood as acts of war.

But not here.

JULIAN: Throughout the West, there’s often a repositioning, firstly, of, you know, forms of indigenous sovereignty as, as, as criminal, right. Like, so if you make something criminal, you are asserting your…right to prosecute under your laws. Similarly, if this truly is a war between two sovereigns…even in the 19th century, the, the standard was that, you know, people who were captured in the war would be treated as prisoners of war. Yet repeatedly, throughout the, the Indian Wars, as they, they’re called, native people were, were treated as criminals.

HOST: In other words, the piece of paper that they signed, that acknowledges they owned the land, was, well, paper thin.

HOST: So in 2009, when a company decided it wanted to build a pipeline right through the middle of a reservation governed by the Sioux, it is perhaps unsurprising that history repeated itself.

Energy Transfer Partners were building the pipe to move crude oil from North Dakota all the way to Illinois, thousands of miles away.

Most of the land they wanted to cross was privately owned.

This made building it relatively easy. In fact, by late 2015, much of the pipeline had already been built. All that needed to happen was for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River.

HOST: And there was only one way to get across the Misssouri River – through the land of the Standing Rock Sioux.

To do that, the company had to ask the people who lived there, those who owned the land, who had sovereignty.

People like Kandi Mossett who grew up on the Fort Berthold reservation nearby.

KANDI: So my English name is Kandi Mossett. My earned name is which is Eagle Woman.

HOST: Kandi and her tribe had good reason to oppose the pipeline.

KANDI: To me it was always common sense that we had to take care our surroundings. (laughs) It wasn’t even something like I ever questioned. Where our food comes from. Where our water comes from.

HOST: To Kandi it seemed obvious that the people wanting to bulldoze through their land didn’t have the same attitude to their surroundings.

KANDI: That I grew up in a reservation that was surrounded by coal-fired power plants, uranium mining, coal mining.

HOST: When Kandi was 20, she was diagnosed with stage 3 sarcoma, a particularly deadly form of cancer. Even before she was diagnosed, she realised she had cancer.

KANDI: I mean, I knew it was cancer because everybody had cancer around me when I was young. There was a lot of people in my family, on the reservation, to me it was normal.

HOST: It wasn’t until she went to University that she twigged something was up.

KANDI: In college I learned from my other peers and the people around me that it wasn’t normal for them to have that many people sick. And so, I started learning then all of these things that I didn’t know the name for yet, like environmental justice or climate justice or environmental racism even, I really didn’t know I was living it.

HOST: So when Energy Transfer Partners rocked up and announced it wanted to build a pipeline, you can see why Kandi and her tribe said no.

KANDY: I know that they were contacting the people at Standing Rock at least since 2014, and the tribe always told them no, we do not want this pipeline. No, we do not want you to come through our area.

HOST: The company understood that the tribe was opposed, so they threatened to get the tribe’s land condemned. Essentially it was a tricky legal tactic that forced the issue. The tribe had a hobson’s choice: either put up with a pipeline and get some money, or the company would build the pipeline anyway, and the tribe would get nothing.

KANDI: And history has shown that when the government or a company says they’re going to do something, take something away from us, they do. And they have. Time and time again in the past, we’ve had things taken away from us.

HOST: Against the legal might of Energy Transfer Partners, they had no chance. So in the end, Kandi’s tribe folded.

But further south, at Standing Rock, the Sioux there were in a different legal position. Their land, was explicitly protected by the 1851 treaty. And they were in a mood to fight.

KANDI: They said no. No amount of money is going to make us. We don’t care if you bully us. We don’t, we don’t care if that’s your MO, Energy Transfer Partners, we’re going to fight you and we’re going to win.

HOST: Ladonna Brave Bull Allard is a member of that tribe.

LADONNA: When, when the pipeline was presented to us in 2014, I was called up to the tribal office to be informed that I was the closest landowner to the proposed pipeline.

INTERVIEWER: So you were the right person in the right place at the right time, in a sense.

LADONNA: Or the wrong person. However you want to look at it. I grew up here. I know every inch of the land. I can tell you every bit of the land for thousands of years. I know the history, the roots grow right out of my seat. I can tell you where every tribe lived, every grave is, every sacred site is. I can tell you about what happened there two thousand years ago. I know my home. I rode horses through there. We lived there, we played there, we fished there. When I was a child, we carried the water right out of the river.

HOST: When the company proposed the pipeline this time, the first thing the Sioux did was turn to their ancestors.

LADONNA: We still have our traditional culture very much intact. So we all went into ceremony to pray. And got guidance.

HOST: The company held a meeting with the tribal leaders.

LADONNA: The chairman of Standing Rock Sioux tribe stood up and said no. All of the directors of all the tribal programs said no. And the people said no.

HOST: The tribe could not have been clearer. But instead of listening to the sovereign owners, packing up and going home, the company instead took a more passive aggressive approach.

LADONNA: They stopped inviting us to the meetings.

HOST: I mean, you have to admire their chutzpah.

LADONNA:But they told the media, in fact, the opposite. Standing Rock wouldn’t attend the meetings.

HOST: With the company’s pipeline closing in, Standing Rock  realised they needed to organise. One of the main concerns they had was the impact the the pipeline would have on their water.

LADONNA: And then we sat down and said, How do we do this? And so we did, we went to the strongest people we have, our children. And we asked all the children to write a letter talking about how much the water means to them. And as the children wrote these letters, which were extremely powerful, from kindergarten all the way up to high school, we started publishing those letters. Then we had the children do a media campaign. And we started with the basic concept, water is life.

HOST: Ho Was Te Wakiya Wicasa was from Standing Rock, but was living in San Francisco. One day he received a phone call.

HO WASTE WAKIYA WICASA: Somewhere around February, my sister who lives right above where Sacred Stone was…She called me and said, Hey, they’re trying to put a pipeline. And they’ve been trying, they’ve been trying, previously, for a couple of years…but…This time, somehow, the…it stuck and they were really going to push the issue.

HOST: Howaste’s mind immediately turned to practicalities.

HOWASTE: So my first reaction was of course, I totally would be honoured to, to go home and see everybody and…to have this battle. And then I said, Ask them if we have money, do we have a campaign even there? Do we have folks…Like, I was one of the first persons (laughs) that they called because they knew that I had a good history in this.

HOST: It turned out they were kind of hoping that Ho Was Te would help them with the whole money thing.

HOWASTE: So I said okay, we need these things. We need strategy people. We need things to go. And my main skill I organizing was to go and hustle money, really, so that we could have flyers, so we could produce t-shirts, so we could get people out of jail.

HOST: He set up a Go Fund Me campaign, with a modest target.

HO: I first set it for like 5 grand but we had 30 people that showed up in camp by March and it cost us gosh  about 500 dollars a day to take care of everybody. And so I quickly changed that and we went to 10 thousand for our request.

HOST: La Donna and the tribal leaders had decided the only way to stop it was to physically stand in the way of the construction.

LADONNA: When the camp was started, we were, we were a small group. I think the camp started with only 4 people. And then expanded to 10 to 15 for about three or four months.

HOST: As the weeks turned into months, the camp dwellers turned to social media to spread their message.

LADONNA: I don’t know a lot about technology. But the young people taught us this thing that we didn’t understand and it’s called Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Livestream. They taught us how to touch the world. And we took the tool and used it.

HOST: Then in August, the camps started taking off.

LADONNA: Everybody was starting to watch every video we put up. I think on a given day we put up 60 different videos.

HOST: Word was starting to spread, and more and more people started arriving at the camp.

LADONNA: First our allies were the indigenous people in the area. And then that expanded to the other tribal nations. And then…as the other tribal nations were coming in, then we connected with our Canadian relatives, indigenous people there, and then, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador. And then Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. … And so the whole core from April until, I would say really, September, it was indigenous people.

LADONNA: One day at camp, this lady pulled up. From North Carolina. Her car packed with stuff and she got out. Because I asked everybody, Why are you coming here? And she said, I waited for this call my whole life. And when I heard the call, I sold my home, I packed everything up to come stand with you.

INTERVIEWER: Oh my gosh.

LADONNA: And that happened over and over and over again.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. That’s amazing.

LADONNA: People were saying, We looked around our world and things are not right.

HOST: By now, there were 2000 people living there on the site, peacefully preventing the company from building the pipeline.

Soon the original camp was so overcrowded, they had to set up a second camp.

KANDI: So many people came in August that we, they formed what was called the Overflow Camp. And that’s what it was originally called, the Overflow Camp, the Overflow Camp. And they said, well, you can’t really name it that, that’s not a good name. And that’s how the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ came about. The Seven Council Fires. That’s what it means in the Sioux language we had people starting to come from all over the place and it was a really beautiful intertwining of cultures. It was a really good feeling to be there together fighting against the same fight, and the same struggle and not being alone.

HOST: At its peak, it was one of the largest settlements in the state.

KANDI: There was so much organization that came about because it literally turned into a city. We had 15,000 people there at one point. That’s larger than most of the towns in North Dakota.

HOST: Then in September, a new set of faces started turning up.

LADONNA: Then all of a sudden the environmentalists said, Hey! Look what these people are doing. And then they started contacting us.

Who never really engaged with indigenous people before. And so, they started, they came in late in the game.

INTERVIEWER: Did- did that cause any disquiet?

Was it complicated, some of those relationships?

LADONNA: No. People came in when first started, people came in. hey understood indigenous people were in control and…and we continued…They offered additional training. They brought people in. I think they weren’t understanding in how we did things but they seemed that we were being successful. Most of the environmentalists I met were very respectful people.

HOST: As more people arrived, the company’s stance shifted from passive aggression to out and out aggression.

As has happened throughout history of the United States, the company called upon the police. Once again, the police stood shoulder to shoulder with company to criminalise the Indigenous people’s defence of their own, sovereign land.

One of the first things the company wanted to do was bulldoze across a sacred burial site. Even so, all the camp leaders agreed that violence was not an option.

HOWASTE: So every sub camp had its own spiritual leader. And we were trying to keep everybody together in prayer. That was our intent. And it lasted for, for quite a while. I was impressed with how long it actually did last.

But when it came down to the moment of truth when they started drilling into the ground and crossing on top of the burials, and those things, we had to make a physical stand.

HOST: Howaste and Kandi and LaDonna, and all their allies formed a cordon. Linking arms, to protect their own land.

HOWASTE: We went there to peacefully ask them to use their brains and to be human beings. And to not go over burials and not go through the water the people have to drink…And…But they didn’t have any regard for that prayer. And…they…The day that they unleashed the dogs on us and we all got bit up, it proved it. That, because they started the fight at that moment. Although we had counted two on them and we had interactions with them prior to that, it was the day they released the dogs and they- that really was a point of no return for us.

LADONNA: I remember on September 3rd, on the day of the dogs, and Amy Goodman was sitting there interviewing me and I was telling her about the Whitestone Massacre. And I got the call and they said, Ladonna, they’re over here digging up the graves. And I said, Stop them. And the man on the phone said, Well, we’re not quite sure what to do. You know they’ve never really had a conflict, you know. We’d been up there singing and chanting and praying. And I said, Push those men out of the way and call the women and children. Stop them. So by the time I got up there, I had watched that man jump out of his vehicle and pepper spray the whole line of women and children. And they wouldn’t back down. The women stuck there, covered with pepper spray hiding their children. And they stood up. And I remember standing up there as they were siccing the dogs on people. And I could remember, Unchi! Unchi! Or, Grandma, grandma! Stand behind me. And here comes the young men on horses, pushing the horses between us and the dogs and the men with the spray. And pushing the men back. It was the first time they inflicted violence on us was that day.

HOST: Back in a minute.

MIDROLL

HOST: So the police had for the first time used violence against the Sioux. It was a shock for everyone at the camp.

KANDI: And it was weird that the police put themselves in between us and the pipeline so that they, they made it look that we were attacking them when they were attacking us and protecting a pipeline. Since when is it their mandate to protect the pipeline? As a police force. That’s when it really got ugly and weird.

HOST: Remarkably, La Donna says it was the police who were scared.

LADONNA: We scared them. What could they do?

INTERVIEWER: What were they scared of?

LADONNA: They were scared of the women. They were scared of the prayers. They were scared of the tears. They were scared of what we were making them feel.

HOST: Luckily, the environmentalists brought with them skills that helped them deal with this situation. At their peak, they were running workshops every day.

KANDI: We were doing non-violent direct action trainings every day. At 2 O’clock. You knew which tent to go to. I was helping in the Indigenous People’s Power Project, IP3, and the [51.02] Society, and some people from Greenpeace. We were doing trainings. Training thousands of people on what it meant to de-escalate, in- in what the actual targets were.

HOST: By this stage, the company decided it need needed reinforcements. The government called in the National Guard.

KANDI: I mean, we were literally standing there with our sweet grass and our sage against fully armed military, the Army National Guard. The United States Army National Guard was called in against us. For protecting water.

KANDI: There was one night when people were like – Hey, look at the Northern Lights! And we unzipped our tent and we went outside and we looked up. And the Northern Lights were just beautiful shining over everybody. It was really something amazing. You can’t explain unless you were there and experienced it and felt it. There was a feeling about it that was so beautiful. And it was all destroyed when the companies came and tried out all of these tactics against us. When it got really bad, I would say like, in November, December, January. They put a spotlight up on the hill so that we were constantly under these bright glaring lights. So that they always watched us. There were helicopters that started flying overhead all the time. Airplanes that flew overhead. All the time.

HOST: On November 20th there was a particularly bruising battle with police.

KANDI: It was the water cannons. And the people getting shot. That’s when Sophia had her arm nearly blown off. My friend got shot in her eye and lost sight in her right eye. She’s now blind in her right eye. And when so many people were shot point blank with this quote-unquote rubber bullets…Looking back on it now, it’s…it’s like a miracle that nobody died. It’s probably because of our prayers.

LADONNA: They had missiles. Where they were shooting missiles of our drones out of the sky. They had military degree mace. They had rubber bullets, percussion grenades. They had water cannons. We were unarmed. We stood there and prayed. We sang. We danced.

HOST:Meanwhile, the GoFundMe that Howaste had created with a goal of five thousand dollars had exploded. Money was pouring in from all around the world as Indigenous people and Environmentalists recognised the significance of the battle.

HO: By the time we ended, when I [14.24] stop, it was at 3.6 million.

HOST: Howaste says the money made a real difference.

HO: In one single day, we spent 250,000 dollars bailing out our p- water protectors who had been arrested. And that happened on several occasions. So the money that we raised really came in handy.

HOST: Faced with this resistance, the company decided it also needed to try a different approach. So it hired a company called TigerSwan.

INTERVIEWER: So who are TigerSwan?

JULIAN: So TigerSwan is a, is a they’re sort of the also-ran to Blackwater. Blackwater was a private security firm that was contracted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And sort of TigerSwan is kind of a competitor private security intelligence firm. It gets hired by…Energy Transfer Partners which is the parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline to run security during the pipeline’s construction. And they end up engaging in…these, these very troublesome activities. Basically, monitoring, flowing, infiltrating…the…the Standing Rock and anti-Dakota Access movement during the…protests there.

INTERVIEWER: So they’re, they’re semi-military, is that right?

JULIAN: Yeah. They’re, they’re definitely. They…they’re definitely military. They have, you know, all kinds of high-tech surveillance gadgets. They refer quite often in…The leak shows that they refer to, they compare the protesters to jihadis quite often. I mean, there’s a very- They- They talk about the protest camps as a battlefield. I mean, there’s a very…charged use, and, and quite- quite frankly, Islamophobic use of, of words to sort of smear these- these protesters and to dehumanize them, to treat as if they were literally enemy combatants.

HOST: TigerSwan brought with them the latest gadgets in the latest installment of this centuries old conflict.

KANDI: And I know my phone was tapped into because it would act up. It would make weird noises. It would suddenly shut off and turn on again. It would have full battery and then boom, the battery would be drained like a minute later.

INTERVIEWER: Oh my god.

KANDI: And we found out why. We found out that they were using sting ray technology and we found out that you could pay- They were probably paying half a million a day to use some of this. We’re also starting to find out that some of this was actually illegal. Like there was no way, they had to get some pretty high clearance to be able to do some of the things that they did.

HOST: If this happened to you, what would you think? You’d probably hate the other side. I know I would. But instead, Kandi has only pity for them. Like they’re the ones that have lost out.

KANDI: And so it into perspective what money does to people. It can make them crazy. Because of they’re willing to these lengths to stop people that simply want to protect water, drinking water for their kids, then it’s gotten really bad.

HOST: TigerSwan was aware of the community spirit that kept the camps united and morale high. TigerSwan realised they needed to draw the camp dwellers into a fight to try and create divisions over the tactics. But the camp elders were clear that violence was not the way to win.

KANDI: And the answer that always came back was there was to be no violence. That if we were to be violent or engage in violence we would lose.

HOST: Howaste says TigerSwan decided to use the camp’s open, welcoming approach against it.

HO: Towards the end of it, it became increasingly difficult to manage because they had sent people in to infiltrate us. And so they were provoking everything and bringing in every kind of drug in and… All the negative stuff started happening towards the end because those guys fought on a…very covert level. They’d battle with us, and we weren’t necessarily prepared for that. So we weren’t prepared for them to bring methamphetamine and alcohol in, and all that and everything else that they ended up bringing into the camp.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. They just fought dirty.

HO: Yeah, there was cr- it was…oh, it was crazy, yes. And I don’t know if you saw, there was a day where we, me and a bunch of my nephews, caught a guy that was one of the employees and we had taken his truck and he had an AR 15 pointed at us, to shoot us. That day and we put, we surrounded him down in the water…And my nephew was able to get the, get the gun from him. But he was a [Dapple? 59.17] employee. And when I went to his, to his pickup truck, and I went to go look at the registration, I found every one of those drugs in there…His job was to go into the camp, and give that stuff away. And…we turned him in and he got nothing- he didn’t get prosecuted, got no charges or anything. They were trying to charge us for assault and battery because we surrounded him and…and lit his vehicle on fire. And so it was difficult to manage towards the end.

HOST: Faced with a focused militarised threat, the camp’s open spirit was now its greatest weakness.

HOWASTE: Because there was no genuine chain of command. We were going by what the elders told us. But when all of the pressure of…[1.00.18] as in all the narcotics they brought in, it started creating problems in managing everybody. Then pretty soon people were not listening to the elders, and not listening to the spiritual leaders, and not listening to the council of grandmothers who had the ultimate say.

HOST: Meanwhile, the confrontation had reached national level. President Obama was desperate to make sure the last year of his presidency was not marred with scenes of Indigenous tribes being violently removed from their sovereign land. On the ground, though, that counted for little.

INTERVIEWER: Were you aware that Obama didn’t want to have the optics of violently remove people from Standing Rock?

LADONNA: Yeah. The presidents of the United States have never been good people. None of them.

LA DONNA: Everything in America is indigenous issues, it’s my land.

HOST: Nevertheless, on November 6, just two days before the US Elections, President  Obama finally announced that the pipeline would be re-routed.

INTERVIEWER: Can I ask. When you found out that Obama had agreed to help the pipeline, how did you feel?
LADONNA: I didn’t believe him. I knew he lied. I stood up on top of that hill. Like everybody, Media Hill, and watched these people and said, This is a lie. Don’t believe them. And I was right. I did not go down when they celebrated. I was like, this is another American ploy. We’ve already had thousands of years of this. Don’t listen to them.

HOST: As it turns out, LaDonna was right to be skeptical. Within days of being elected, Trump declared the full steam ahead on the pipeline.

HOST:For Howaste, it was history repeating itself.

HO: And so, you have to remember we have these repetitive cycles of history that we’re engaged in. America is not is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s a plutocracy of racist white men that don’t care about us. And so…so I think in the end, the real reason is that they all got money to do that.

HOST: Anyone who views this story as just being about a pipeline, rather than an issue of sovereignty, would see Trump’s actions as a defeat.

But for people like LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, this is just the actions of an occupying force no matter what happens, it’s still Standing Rock Sioux’s land. In the broad sweep of history, it is, at most a setback.

LADONNA: I’ll tell you a little story here. We had a family come to stay with us. And I remember the day they arrived. They said, Are we allowed? And I said, Yes, everybody’s welcome. And they said, No, we’re Muslim, are we allowed? And I said, Yes, you are. And I…I went down to the camp, and Mohammed walked up to me and said, Grandma, I’m going to the front line today. And I said, No, you’re not. He said, No, I’m going. He had a little bicycle helmet on, made himself a little breastplate, and a stick, and…And so I went to his father and I said, Ah, no kids, it’s too dangerous out there. And he said, I’ll keep him in the back. He’s so…so…insistent on going. And so I said, Take care of him. Because they were shooting people and everything. And so they went. The next thing I seen was a video. And there is Mohammed, 8 years old, standing at the fence, on his knees with his hands through the fence, with his stuffed rabbit. Offering the police his stuffed rabbit, saying, Please don’t shoot anybody. It was one of the first days that the police didn’t shoot anybody. And he stood there all that time, on his knees, on their front line, with that stuffed rabbit. To me, that was power.

For this little boy to stand there when so many people were being shot, and…everything else you can imagine.

INTERVIEWER: Wow.

LADONNA: And the police just standing there not knowing what to do. That was the power of the movement.

 

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