ALONG THE CANNONBALL RIVER, North Dakota
The following story is brought to you by the taxpayers of North Dakota.
It was a bitter cold night on the Backwater Bridge when Efrain Montalvo got the desperate call from the front line.
“The medics were screaming for help, because they were overwhelmed,” remembered Montalvo, 25, a member of the International Indigenous Youth Council at Standing Rock. He looked up through white mists of teargas, cut by screams and shouts on the bridge. Native elders stood motionless in front of barricades of razor wire, clutching feathers, burning prayer bundles of sage, holding their ground. They were unarmed, eyes shut tight against the clouds of pepper spray. Others held up plywood shields or the tops of plastic bins against the spray. “Disperse!” shouted police, who then unleashed a fire hose, soaking protestors in the sub-freezing temperatures. Icicles formed on their hair. Their winter jackets crunched.
Montalvo moved swiftly toward the front line, carrying bottles of water and Milk of Magnesia (to relieve the teargas sting) toward the medics. Riot-clad police, ensconced behind concrete barriers and the looping wire, began firing rubber bullets. Montalvo watched an elder fall at his feet, his staff clattering to the pavement of the shut-down state highway. Then police launched a barrage of smoking teargas canisters from grenade launchers.
“That’s when people started panicking,” Montalvo recalled.
A tear gas canister hit Montalvo squarely in the chest. He inhaled its smoke deeply, then wandered aimlessly, hands over his eyes. Two minutes later he could see again. Another canister exploded at his feet. He saw a brilliant white light. Then everything went black and silent.
The Daily Beast
The dead refugee had a name. But even in death Australia did not want to humanize him. For years now he had been no more than a registration number — BRF063 — under the country’s cruel refugee deterrence system known as “offshore processing.”
The brief announcement on Dec. 24 from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “A 27-year-old Sudanese refugee has sadly died today from injuries suffered after a fall and seizure at the Manus Regional Processing Center.”
This was all that Australia could muster for Faisal Ishak Ahmed, who fled the Darfur region of Sudan in 2013. His was a death foretold, like that of the other deceased asylum seekers and refugees banished by Australia to the small island nation of Nauru and to Manus, a remote corner of the Papua New Guinea archipelago.
Since July 2013, Australia has herded more than 2,000 desperate people into these island prisons. There has been no “process” in centers housed in poor countries paid by Australia to do its dirty work. Human beings have been left to fester, crack up and die, as I observed on Manus during a five-day visit last month. Draconian nondisclosure contracts have gagged staff, although the whole system is beginning to crumble under the weight of its iniquity.
The conservative Australian government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argues that its policy has “stopped the boats” at a time when more refugees are on the move across the world than at any time since 1945. The argument’s flaw is its inhumanity. Despite being a signatory of all major international human rights treaties, Australia has instituted an indefensible policy of cruelty as deterrence
New York Times
Faisal Ishak Ahmed
A faulty pipeline has leaked 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek and the surrounding countryside 2.5 hours away from the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota.
The spill, which went undetected by the pipeline owners until a local stumbled on it, has spread almost 7 km (5.4 miles) from the site of the leak, and at this stage, it’s not clear what caused the pipe to rupture, or how long it’s been leaking
An estimated 4,200 barrels of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County, 150 miles (241 km) from Cannon Ball in North Dakota, where protesters have been fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline