Arrested for exercising their sovereignty, defending their lands and protecting their children’s futures. A quiet September the 5th had started out as just a scouting trip but the sight of active construction raised immediate concern. “Enough is Enough” “No means No” Water Warriors told the construction crew and police officers. After stopping a construction truck leave, Dakota and Chester were placed in handcuffs and removed by the Fife PD. The charge? Disorderly Conduct.
This happened on 12th St in Fife, WA where on the 17th July you might remember several people sitting in front of machinery. On that day they stopped construction for several hours. A small gain, according to people protesting the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant being built on Tacoma Tideflats. They understand that delays while they work through the murky world of permitting, mean something. Every moment counts.
We learned last week that the Tribal Council had sent letters detailing critical permit violations by the Port of Tacoma and Puget Sound Energy. These included Cease and Desist requests. To date, at least publically, none of the concerns presented by the tribe have been addressed.
Water protectors were on the ground for a couple of days following the arrests to research the status of the permits. PSE is laying the pipe with a right of way permit through the city of Fife. This was as much as the Public Information Officer for the gas company told us when she met us during our July 18th rally on the same road.
The question is; If any work in relation to the new facility, including its pipeline requires an NOC (notice of construction) prior to any of that work being started, how was the City of Fife able to issue a right of way permit? That is a sewer permit for a 16-inch gas pipeline.
There is growing concern at a perception that PSE is being disingenuous about the use of the Fife portion of the pipeline. They refer to it as an infrastructure project and talk about supplying current customers in times of need. Environmental groups tell us that this is smoke and mirrors and not the intended use of the facility at all.
It was because of the information in these letters that Dakota Case and Anna Bean felt compelled to approach the pipeline site. They asked the flagger to call down a supervisor and said that they wanted to see the permits.
Anna and Dakota are part of the Warrior Warrior Movement Council which is made up of Puyallup tribal members. That council was set up to organize a grassroots response to the facility from concerned tribal members and to provide leadership on tribal interests to allied groups.
They were quickly joined by Chester Earl and Teshay Firethunder, both are also members of the Puyallup Tribe and Water Warriors. Chester used to work in the court system so he knew which questions to ask. It didn’t help.
By the end of the evening, many people who had been watching the live streams had come to stand. RedLine Tacoma (recently rebranded as ReDefine Tacoma) arrived with its usual strong solidarity response. We are all a big family at this stage. There was a resistance presence at the site until the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The Water Warriors responded to the Fife police presence by calling in the Puyallup tribal police. The city of Fife exists entirely within the Puyallup Tribes reservation boundaries after all. Chester, Dakota, Anna, and Teshay had all made clear they were exercising their sovereignty that night.
Dakota and Chester later spoke of a spiritual element to their involvement that evening. Something, they each recounted the following day, had told them that this was the time. For these Water Warriors, enough was enough. They remonstrated passionately with police and construction crews, who bought out ice cold water for the protectors. The group also showed the police copies of the orders but as a judge hadn’t signed off on them, the police said, they were not enforceable. It was explained that regardless, the company was still operating without the correct permits. Both men resolved to stand their ground.
Eventually, as a truck was about to leave, Dakota stood in its way. At first, it seemed the driver was intent on hitting Dakota until a tribal police officer jumped up and banged on his window. Then, in front of Puyallup tribal police, Dakota and Chester were arrested and taken off the reservation to a private jail facility about 20 miles away. The idea of indigenous people being taken off their own reservation by non-tribal authorities in 2017 struck a chord with many. Their arrests are the first Puyallup Tribal arrests in regards to the ongoing opposition to the LNG plant so far.
Bail and Legends
James (JimJim) Rideout, a tribal council member you’ll remember from earlier actions arrived at the scene shortly after the arrests. He then went to the jail holding Chester and Dakota and posted bail for each of them. Dakota was later to give honor to JimJim by presenting him with an Eagle feather, a sacred item in native culture.
From there we had Anna Bean on the Scene with the Live Stream… (yeah? no? okay okay!)
Anna was doing her first live stream for NDN and she was fantastic. As a bonus, she was also in the company of Ramona Bennett. Ramona’s legend comes before her. She has fought for Indigenous sovereign rights since the 1960s. To listen to her speak is an absolute treasure and deep honor.
Let’s also put this into perspective, Ramona is in her 80s. Here she is at 4 AM in the morning about to welcome a new generation of activists, who are willing to do what it takes to make a change, as they are released from jail. It is a passing of the baton, so to speak.
With Chester, Dakota, Anna and the rest of the Water Warriors she will see that the future is in good hands.
(Cover photo provided generously by Valerie Ruth Mason)