Monthly Archives: December 2016

2016 Person of the Year Named by OWW

Editorial Note: Occupy World Writes has selected our 2016 Person of the Year. Our criteria is based on contributions toward uniting various peoples for a common cause, gaining world attention for that cause, and through pressure from these gains, has been able to affect change for the united people’s concern.

In 2016, we can think of no better example than that of Sacred Stone Camp co-founder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. Through her leadership, we now all appreciate the message that “Water Is Life.” Without her, a black snake would already be pumping poison under the sacred waters of Lake Oahe.

We honor you, LaDonna, by presenting here a story told in your own words. Thank you for your gifts to all of us; may we all learn by the example you have shown.

Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre

We must remember we are part of a larger story. We are still here. We are still fighting for our lives on our own land.

By . Published 9/3/2016 by YES! Magazine

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard at Sacred Stones camp along the banks of the Cannonball River. Photo by Kat Eng.

On this day, 153 years ago, my great-great-grandmother Nape Hote Win (Mary Big Moccasin) survived the bloodiest conflict between the Sioux Nations and the U.S. Army ever on North Dakota soil. An estimated 300 to 400 of our people were killed in the Inyan Ska (Whitestone) Massacre, far more than at Wounded Knee. But very few know the story.

As we struggle for our lives today against the Dakota Access pipeline, I remember her. We cannot forget our stories of survival.

Just 50 miles east of here, in 1863, nearly 4,000 Yanktonais, Isanti (Santee), and Hunkpapa gathered alongside a lake in southeastern North Dakota, near present-day Ellendale, for an intertribal buffalo hunt to prepare for winter. It was a time of celebration and ceremony—a time to pray for the coming year, meet relatives, arrange marriages, and make plans for winter camps. Many refugees from the 1862 uprising in Minnesota, mostly women and children, had been taken in as family. Mary’s father, Oyate Tawa, was one of the 38 Dah’kotah hanged in Mankato, Minesota, less than a year earlier, in the largest mass execution in the country’s history. Brigadier General Alfred Sully and soldiers came to Dakota Territory looking for the Santee who had fled the uprising. This was part of a broader U.S. military expedition to promote white settlement in the eastern Dakotas and protect access to the Montana gold fields via the Missouri River.

As my great-great-grandmother Mary Big Moccasin told the story, the attack came the day after the big hunt, when spirits were high. The sun was setting and everyone was sharing an evening meal when Sully’s soldiers surrounded the camp on Whitestone Hill. In the chaos that ensued, people tied their children to their horses and dogs and fled. Mary was 9 years old. As she ran, she was shot in the hip and went down. She laid there until morning, when a soldier found her. As he loaded her into a wagon, she heard her relatives moaning and crying on the battlefield.  She was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Crow Creek where she stayed until her release in 1870.

Where the Cannonball River joins the Missouri River, at the site of our camp today to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, there used to be a whirlpool that created large, spherical sandstone formations. The river’s true name is Inyan Wakangapi Wakpa, River that Makes the Sacred Stones, and we have named the site of our resistance on my family’s land the Sacred Stone Camp. The stones are not created anymore, ever since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mouth of the Cannonball River and flooded the area in the late 1950s as they finished the Oahe dam. They killed a portion of our sacred river.

I was a young girl when the floods came and desecrated our burial sites and Sundance grounds. Our people are in that water.

This river holds the story of my entire life.

I remember hauling our water from it in big milk jugs on our horses. I remember the excitement each time my uncle would wrap his body in cloth and climb the trees on the river’s banks to pull out a honeycomb for the family—our only source of sugar. Now the river water is no longer safe to drink. What kind of world do we live in?

Look north and east now, toward the construction sites where they plan to drill under the Missouri River any day now, and you can see the old Sundance grounds, burial grounds, and Arikara village sites that the pipeline would destroy. Below the cliffs you can see the remnants of the place that made our sacred stones.

Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.

Again, it is the U.S. Army Corps that is allowing these sites to be destroyed.

The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.

If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?

Today, on this same sacred land, over 100 tribes have come together to stand in prayer and solidarity in defiance of the black snake. And more keep coming. This is the first gathering of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux tribes) since the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Bighorn) 140 years ago. When we first established the Sacred Stone Camp on April 1 to stop the pipeline through prayer and non-violent direct action, I did not know what would happen. But our prayers were answered.

We must remember we are part of a larger story.  We are still here.  We are still fighting for our lives, 153 years after my great-great-grandmother Mary watched as our people were senselessly murdered. We should not have to fight so hard to survive on our own lands.

My father is buried at the top of the hill, overlooking our camp on the riverbank below. My son is buried there, too. Two years ago, when Dakota Access first came, I looked at the pipeline map and knew that my entire world was in danger. If we allow this pipeline, we will lose everything.

We are the river, and the river is us. We have no choice but to stand up.

Today, we honor all those who died or lost loved ones in the massacre on Whitestone Hill. Today, we honor all those who have survived centuries of struggle. Today, we stand together in prayer to demand a future for our people.

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

If you want to know more about LaDonna, we recommend you start with this article.

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Thanks to Congress, Trump Will Have Nearly Unlimited Power to Wage War

“Trump will have a free hand to use the law meant for the perpetrators of 9/11 to wage war around the world, fashioning it to different enemies at his command”

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-29-2016

“You could easily see him wanting to ramp up the war on terror and take it to new parts of the globe,” one US lawmaker said of President-elect Donald Trump. “There are few limits on what he can do.” (Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc)

The failure of U.S. Congress to pass a formal authorization for the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) means incoming President Donald Trump—whose brash and impulsive approach to foreign policy has raised alarms—will have effectively unlimited war powers, Politico reported Thursday.

In the absence of such a resolution, President Barack Obama has relied on the existing Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as justification for military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Attempts to replace or rein in the AUMF have failed. Continue reading

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Facebook Doesn’t Tell Users Everything It Really Knows About Them

The site shows users how Facebook categorizes them. It doesn’t reveal the data it is buying about their offline lives.

By Julia Angwin, Terry Parris Jr., Surya Mattu.. Published 12-28-2016 by Common Dreams

Facebook has long let users see all sorts of things the site knows about them, like whether they enjoy soccer, have recently moved, or like Melania Trump.

But the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many credit cards are in their wallets.

Since September, ProPublica has been encouraging Facebook users to share the categories of interest that the site has assigned to them. Users showed us everything from “Pretending to Text in Awkward Situations” to “Breastfeeding in Public.” In total, we collected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users. Continue reading

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Unhappy Holidays: Houston Police Force Homeless People to Throw Away Food

On Thursday, the Houston Police Department targeted a group of homeless advocates who were attempting to hand out hot food and gifts to the homeless.

By Derrick Broze. Published 12-24-2016 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Jack Newton/flickr

Houston, TX — Local activists attempting to hand out food and gifts were shocked on Thursday afternoon when Houston police forced the homeless to throw away the donations.  Around 1 pm on Thursday,  several individuals met in downtown Houston to distribute plates of hot food, blankets, and other supplies to the city’s growing homeless population. Soon after, Houston police arrived on the scene of two different intersections where the homeless advocates were giving out gifts and food.

According to witness testimony posted on Facebook, the police instructed the homeless to throw away everything they had been given. Not only were the police called, but they brought a large waste management truck and are forcing the homeless to throw away their food, pillows and other items,” reads one post. Continue reading

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Under Cover of Christmas, Obama Establishes Controversial Anti-Propaganda Agency

“It owns all these not-at-all-important laws are smuggled into NDAAs that are signed on Christmas Eve with basically no public debate,” wrote media critic Adam Johnson

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-26-2016

Buried within the $619 billion military budget is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In the final hours before the Christmas holiday weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law—and buried within the $619 billion military budget (pdf) is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms.

The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, establishes the Global Engagement Center under the State Department which coordinates efforts to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests.” Continue reading

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Despite Pressure From Trump, UN Votes to Demand End to Israeli Settlements

Historic US abstention allows resolution to pass

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-23-2016

Telem, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Photo: חיים (received from author via OTRS) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite unusual diplomatic maneuvering involving President-elect Donald Trump, Israel, and Egypt on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council passed a historic resolution on Friday demanding an end to Israeli settlements. The United States abstained, effectively allowing the measure to be approved.

Egypt withdrew the original resolution on Thursday afternoon, reportedly “under pressure” from Trump—who tweeted on the matter Thursday morning—and Israel. Had this move worked, it could have punted the measure to the incoming Trump administration, which is seen as more friendly to Israel than that of President Barack Obama—especially after Trump’s nomination last week of conservative hardliner David Friedman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Continue reading

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US Government Quietly Starts Asking Travelers for Social Media Accounts

Controversial program met with opposition from civil liberties groups when first proposed in June

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-23-2016

Social media accounts are “gateways into an enormous amount of [users’] online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person’s opinions, beliefs, identity, and community.” (Photo: The Hamster Factor/flickr/cc)

The U.S. government has quietly started to ask foreign travelers to hand over their social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a program that aims to spot potential terrorist threats but which civil liberties advocates have long opposed as a threat to privacy.

The program has been active since Tuesday, asking travelers arriving to the U.S. on visa waivers to voluntarily enter information associated with their online presence, including “Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites,” Politico reports. Continue reading

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America Has Unofficially Declared War on the Homeless

By Josie Wales. Published 12-23-2016 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA (Helping the homeless Uploaded by Gary Dee) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Police departments across the country have been ramping up raids on the homeless, stealing coats, blankets, and other personal items and leaving those on the street with no protection from the cold and rain.

The Homelessness San Diego Facebook page recently posted a video of city workers conducting an “encampment sweep” that was recorded by homeless advocate Michael McConnell. According to CW6, “the city says it routinely posts clean-up notices downtown as part of its regular weekly abatement schedule.

The Denver Police Department released a statement last Thursday evening defending police officers caught on video taking blankets, sleeping bags, and tents from homeless people and issuing some citations. Freezing temperatures didn’t stop the cold-hearted cops from confiscating the items “as evidence of the violations.”

The video taken by a bystander went viral after being shared by the ACLU of Colorado’s Facebook page. It was swiftly followed up by an open letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver City Council, and city officials. The letter, which expresses horror at the willingness of the local government officials to endanger the lives of the homeless, “demands that the City immediately (1) direct its police officers to cease confiscation of blankets and other survival gear possessed by people experiencing homelessness, (2) suspend enforcement of the Denver Urban Camping Ban through the winter months, using that time to explore alternative approaches to homelessness that do not criminalize people for having nowhere they can afford to live and (3) end the coordinated sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, whether they are conducted through police, public works, private security, all of the above, or any other means.”

This is not the first time Colorado authorities have come under fire for their brutal treatment of the homeless. In February of this year, Denver Law School released a report called Too High A Price: What Criminalizing Homelessness Costs Colorado, which examined the economic and social cost of the anti-homeless laws. According to the paper, “Laws that criminalize panhandling, begging, camping, sitting or lying in public, and vagrancy target and disproportionately impact homeless residents for activities they must perform in the course of daily living.”

Los Angeles deployed an entire task force to crack down on homeless people, imposing their own “encampment sweeps” in September. The ironically named “Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement” teams are supposed to help reduce the number of people living on the street, but they appear to be doing nothing more than turning those who are less fortunate into criminals.

The ACLU declared a small victory over the summer when it successfully defended the rights of a man charged with trespassing after trying to gain access to emergency shelter. According to Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts:

“Today’s landmark, unanimous ruling has affirmed, e.in the state high court’s own words that ‘our law does not permit the punishment of the homeless simply for being homeless.’”

Anti-homeless laws are cruel, unconstitutional, and create more hardship for those targeted, making it harder for them to get back on their feet. It is unthinkable to believe that stealing blankets and clothing from people living on the street is justifiable by any legislation, and it is terrifying to see law enforcement follow orders to do so without blinking an eye.

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

 

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Taking Weapon Out of Trump’s Arsenal, Obama Finally Kills Bush-Era Muslim Registry

ACLU applauds end of “completely failed counter-terrorism tool and massive profiling program that didn’t yield a single terrorism conviction in nearly a decade”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-22-2016

“With this action,” says ACLU, “the U.S. is on the right path to protect Muslim and Arab immigrants from discrimination.” (Image: ACLU)

With a President Donald Trump on the horizon, civil liberties advocates applauded President Barack Obama on Thursday after his administration announced the end of a federal registration program for Muslim and Arab immigrants.

Established by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was criticized since its inception as regressive attempt to profile individuals based on their national heritage and religion. Continue reading

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Older Americans Pushed Into Poverty as Feds Garnish Social Security for Student Debt

‘Hard-earned Social Security checks should not be siphoned off to pay interest and fees on student loan debt,’ says Elizabeth Warren

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-21-2016

“We could have hundreds of thousands of American seniors living in poverty due to garnished Social Security benefits if this trend continues,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. (Photo: Kate Gardiner/flickr/cc)

The federal government is garnishing Social Security checks to recoup unpaid student debt, leaving thousands of retired or disabled Americans below the poverty line and setting the stage for an even bigger problem, according to a new report.

The data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), compiled at the behest of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), showed that people over the age of 50 are the fastest-growing group with student debt, outpacing younger generations—and compared to younger borrowers, older Americans have “considerably higher rates of default on federal student loans.” This leaves them open to having up to 15 percent of their benefit payment withheld, in what’s called an “offset.” Continue reading

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