Home > Columnists > Melinda Tuhus > Fighting the tail of DAPL in Louisiana | Melinda Tuhus

Fighting the tail of DAPL in Louisiana | Melinda Tuhus

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Melinda Tuhus reported for decades for a variety of national and local radio and print outlets, including Free Speech Radio News, WINGS, the New Haven Independent, In These Times and The New York Times. She is moving toward retirement and spending more time volunteering in the climate justice movement.

I called a friend today who was having some health issues, and she didn’t sound good. Turns out it wasn’t her physical health that’s the problem, it’s the emotional toll that the never-ending political/social/environmental crises, and all the lies and corruption, was taking on her.

I can relate. For the first year of the Trump administration I was gung ho and even energized by all the fights I and millions of others were engaged in. We even won some – or at least postponed implementation of horrors such as the Muslim ban and the wall on the Mexican border. Now the Muslim ban has been approved by the Trump Supreme Court, and the wall is still a live issue.

What really sent me into a funk was Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” for unauthorized immigration on the US-Mexico border, his administration’s kidnapping of children and the introduction of new phrases into the American lexicon like “tender age cages” for kids under 5. Then he reversed himself and issued an executive order to stop the separation of families, but more than 3,000 kids were taken and there’s no way he will meet a court-ordered deadline to return all of them. There’s even the nightmare likelihood that some of them will never be returned, as some of their parents have already been deported or have been deemed “unfit” parents. The sick irony of this administration talking like it’s protecting these kids when it has traumatized them, perhaps permanently.

I’ve realized that I’m much more of a glass half-empty kind of girl lately, and I’ve taken out my frustration and depression on those closest to me. Once I realized it, I’m now trying to recover my energy and commitment and emotional balance.

Some people don’t have the luxury of drifting away from the fight – the parents trying to get their kids back, for sure, but also many of the frontline folks fighting extractive energy projects like mountaintop removal coal and gas and oil pipelines. Case in point: a small but incredibly dedicated group of folks fighting the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana. It’s the “tail” of the Dakota Access pipeline that triggered the beautiful resistance at Standing Rock. Same company (Energy Transfer Partners), same oil, same brutal tactics used by law enforcement and mercenaries. Cherri Foytlin, an indigenous woman who’s one of the leaders of #NoBayouBridge, was beat up one recent night, and another supporter was harassed and denied water for several hours in the 90+ heat and humidity while trying to hold the line against the pipeline. (That’s Cherri in the photo above.)

But they are resisting in beautiful and creative ways, like setting up tree sits in the path of the pipeline. In an interview, while talking about the situation, Cherri said she wanted no pity and even laughed several times. She said what keeps her going is the solidarity of others in the fight with her, like a Lakota brother from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota who’s been there for a month and recently locked down all day to a piece of machinery, with the words “Give St. James a way out” written on the pipe his arms were stuck into – a reference to a poor African American community along the pipeline route for whom the company did not bother to create an escape route in case of disaster.

Click here for an inspiring video of these three fighters.

I know my limits. I know I can’t go to Louisiana in the middle of the summer – I would melt into a puddle. So I’m staying in New Haven and organizing a solidarity action during the last two weeks of July – along with dozens of other places around the country, targeting the banks that are funding Bayou Bridge and several other dirty, damaging and unnecessary oil and gas pipelines.

You can visit the Rise Together website to find an action (hopefully) near you and learn how else you can contribute money or time.

This story was previously published on MelindaTuhus.net and is reprinted here with permission.

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