The last time I wrote, I said that I was on my way home from the DAPL protest at the Sacred Stone Camp in the Standing Rock reservation. Well, I got as far as Jamestown, ND, rented a motel room, and found I simply could not sleep. I was worrying too much about the few protesters I had left behind, and was afraid that I was wrong in my opinion that the camp would not be raided. So, I emptied my car of all my gear so that I might be able to carry people back with me, then went back to the camp.
There were very few people left. It was an incredibly surreal landscape. There were literally tons of perfectly good gear laying abandoned. Lumber, sleeping bags, dozens of ti pis, semi-permanent dwellings people had built, tarps, wooden platforms, wood burning stoves--literally every kind of camping gear you can imagine, and some I'd never seen before (like a propane powered instant hot water tank).
Still, my kitchen was still standing, though it had been stripped of all its propane burners and most of its pots, pans and utensils. I started a fire and made some coffee, and started serving the few straggles who hadn't left yet. Word was that there were, perhaps, 20 people in the lower part of the camp who were planning to stay and get arrested, and that the BIA police were coming at noon.
I decided to stay and get arrested. This whole process, the camp raids, the intimidation, the seizure of people's property is clearly a violation of our right to assemble, and our right to free speech. I couldn't let that happen unchallenged. I had to make some gesture honoring the months of sacrifice, privation, and harassment the Water Defenders had been going through for almost a year as they fought to protect the Missouri River and all our Waters.
So, I stayed. The arrest itself was extremely civil in my case. I was put in a van and driven to a jail two hours away in Selby, South Dakota. My car, I was told, would be impounded.
In Selby, I was put through the routine psychological stresses that any incarcerated protestor can expect: unresponsive guards who could or would not answer any question about my situation; messages to family which were not delivered; at one point I was given a fax of the citation against me which made it look like I would be spending the next 20 days in that jail. My cellmates were decent, honorable men, men with a lot of experience with incarceration. I learned a lot from them.
In the end, I only spent three days and two nights in jail in Selby. I plead guilty at the arraignment hearing, not because I believe I should have been arrested, but because I'm a man of limited means and simply can't afford to stay here and fight this court battle. On other person was arrested, a man named Zachary Ziedel. He plead Not Guilty and is still (as far as I know) in jail. I was sentenced to time served.
I was put on the street in Selby, South Dakota, about 200 miles south of my car, with no means to get north. I had left my cellphone in Jamestown. Luckily, a wonderful Native couple, BJ and Wilma Kidder came to my rescue. They have been helping the Water Defenders from the beginning, and were present at many of the critical moments in the protest. Some months ago, BJ had even helped capture a man who had brought an assault rifle, intending to shoot at protesters in the Oceti camp.
They drove me back to the reservation, and Wilma had learned that my car is still on the grounds at the Sacred Stone camp and had not been impounded. This creates several problems for me. One is that a condition of my release is that I not return to Sacred Stone camp for a year. So, I literally can't go on to the camp grounds to retrieve my car. The second is that the site is now under the control of the Tribe's EPA, so no one is allowed on the site without their permission, and their offices don't open until Monday.
So, at the moment, I am in a hotel in Bismark, North Dakota, waiting for the EPA offices to open on Monday. I am fine. Thank you all for the concern you've shown. I'm sorry for this roller coaster ride. I really had intended to come all the way home, but found that I couldn't. Hopefully, we are finally in the long, slow coast back to the beginning of the ride, here and I will be able to go back to Ohio in a few days.