Let’s Talk About Cages: Biden’s Big Oil Boosters

March 10, 2020 by Barbara With

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA)

Sen. Joe Biden has chosen Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) as his campaign co-chair. Even though his low-lying district in Louisiana would be most immediately impacted by climate change, Richmond has a long history of being beholding to the oil and gas corporations:

Richmond, a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, voted in favor of many Republican bills opposed by environmentalists over the years, including Rep. Markwayne Mullin’s (R-Okla.) bill to exempt cross-border pipelines from environmental review, Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) bill to reverse the crude oil export ban, Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-Wash.) bill to expand offshore drilling, and Rep. David McKinley’s (R-W.V.) bill to block the Environment Protection Agency from regulating the disposal of toxic coal ash.

Richmond’s campaign contributions read like a who’s who of fossil fuel climate accelerator profiteers that are destroying the planet: Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Phillips Petroleum. However, the one that ties him to cages is the American Petroleum Institute (API), a conglomerate of nearly every gas and oil producer in the world.

API was in the news in 2019 because of new legislation they authored that was sweeping into state houses. Dubbed the “Anti-protest” bill, the legislation’s official moniker was “Critical Infrastructure Bill.” The International Center for Non-Profit Law Brief described it as such:

The United States has recently witnessed a rise in protests against the construction of oil and gas pipelines by those concerned about pipelines’ harm to the environment, indigenous land, and landowner rights. State lawmakers nationwide have responded to this trend with legislation criminalizing certain conduct near pipelines and other “critical infrastructure.” Since the Dakota Access Pipeline protests (#NoDAPL) in 2016, at least sixteen states have introduced so-called “critical infrastructure bills” and seven states have enacted them. Although legislation that focuses on “critical infrastructure” may sound innocuous and technocratic, these bills can significantly undermine the right to peaceful assembly.

The bill allows for any person on a “utility’s” land—whether a pipeline easement route or an office building/headquarters—to be charged with a felony. Because the for-profit energy corporations would now be considered “public utilities,” the door opens for them to legally use local law enforcement to arrest and criminalize protestors exercising First Amendment protected rights.

After the #NoDAPL protests, Energy Transfer Partners had to pay Morton County, where the protests took place, $15,000,000 for the cost of law enforcement. With the passing of this bill, that cost will now fall to the people. Oil companies can now direct local law enforcement to arrest, jail and intimidate peaceful protesters, who then have to hire a lawyer, go to court, and pay the cost to prove they were merely exercising their First Amendment protected rights. Local units of government will be stuck with the law enforcement tab.

Standing Rock
Due to media blackouts, many Americans were not privy to what actually happened in 2016 in North Dakota when another powerful movement began at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. DAPL was slated to run from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, pumping 470,000 barrels of oil a day. The pipeline threatened the ancient burial grounds and cultural sites of the Sioux, as well as the water supply of 17,000,000 people who depend on the Missouri River for drinking and agriculture.

“Milky Way over Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock)” Photo: Ryan Vizzions

The #NoDAPL movement was based on prayer and non-violent resistance. It became an international rallying cry for indigenous rights and climate change activists as thousands of water protectors converged on Cannon Ball, North Dakota to protect the watershed. During the stand-off, the camp grew from a handful of Lakota to an expansive community representing over 300 tribes and various nationalities from around the world.

SB386 was Wisconsin’s version of the Anti-Protest Bill. Photo: Ryan Vizzions

Standing Rock went from a place of celebration to a war zone, as North Dakota launched a full-out war on the peaceful water protectors. Weapons included LRAD, rubber bullets, mace, snipers, dog attacks, helicopter and plane harassment, percussion bombs, road blocks, illegal arrests, strip searches, destruction of possessions and sacred items, tasers in the face, emotional trauma, and something called an “Active Denial System,” a machine that operates like a giant microwave, heating the skin of the targeted human subjects. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the country worked with TigerSwan, a private security firm who was denied a license to operate in North Dakota but did so anyway, to perpetrate outrageous and blatant human rights abuses against the tribe and their allies.

“Defending the Sacred,” Standing Rock, October 2016. Photo: Ryan Vizzions

One of the common practices by law enforcement was strip searching the women and putting them into cages:

I met two elders, a man and a woman, who had just been released from jail after being arrested two days ago. She had a “#1” on her arm. This was how law enforcement marked the people arrested. Seeing the number on her arm made me think of the Jews during the Holocaust. She told us that about 80 women had been kept in dog kennels and were made to sit on the concrete floor for hours. There were young girls in the cages, and the guards were hanging off the sides of the cages, harassing them. At one point, all three of the girls were removed from the cages. She said no one knew where they had been taken.

North Dakota essentially suspended the constitution and committed human rights abuses so egregious that Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II went before the United Nations Human Rights Council to plead for help.

While all this was going on, President Obama sat on his hands and watched. Instead of sending in resources to protect the water protectors’ right to peacefully protest and denounce the cages, he said he was “going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

Water protectors were outraged that he did not condemn the violence. Instead, this double speak was coming from a man who was in the pocket of the oil corporations, including API, who ran advertisements during the 2019 Houston Democratic debates featuring Obama bragging about how he opened 75% more offshore drilling sites. Once out of office, he continued to brag about being the “Oil and Gas President”:

* * * *

Bernie Sanders however, stood up with dignity and called for a new relationship with Native Americans wherein “we will not run pipelines through their land” and demanded that their rights be respected:

A Cage is a Cage

No one will debate the horrors of the children being put into cages at our southern border. Trump is truly awful. But “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Obama’s lame excuse for “letting things play out” while US citizens were being put into cages fits that category.

Add to this the statistics around missing and murdered indigenous women and girls—in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases. The oil companies’ “man camps,” filled with transient labor, are associated with increased rates of sexual assault and violence against Indigenous women.

While those three young Native women from Standing Rock were being removed from their cage and probably going missing, Obama was ruminating on “how to be properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.” I’m guessing that wasn’t it.

Now Joe Biden’s campaign manager is an emissary for the same bi-partisan greedy corporate players who are destroying the planet at the expense of our children and grandchildren. On top of that, they have stolen the election systems with the hackable voting machines and taken control of our government via corporate legislators colluding to pass bills that benefit them. Watch again how Joe Biden surges in Michigan despite not campaigning or doing any news shows.

What makes corporate fascism work are loyal party members, willfully ignorant of the dangers they know Biden is bringing with him.

The new “anti-protest” bill has passed in 17 states, with 34 more pending. By the time average Americans finally lose their water, they will wake up and face a possible felony and six years in jail if they attempt to protect it. More and more Americans will be put into cages.

The climate crisis is upon us and corporate control of our government is literally killing us. We need leaders who cannot be bought, who will openly fight corporate fascism, with the moral fortitude and stamina to help us break the stranglehold that all corporations have on our government. They are very literally killing us.

If Biden’s choice for campaign manager is any indication, clearly he is not one of them.

Bernie, on the other, comes with millions of people who don’t care about “D”s or “R”s, and a plan for how to begin to dismantle the monster that we have become.

For these reasons, Bernie is the only one who can bring us the systemic change that is needed to save the planet.

#bernie2020 #presidentsanders #NotMeUs






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