For Van Jones, ‘this is Selma. This is Birmingham.’ This is as big a civil rights movement, and as big a civil rights moment, as you’re ever gonna see.
Commentator Van Jones — along with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman — is one of the few contributors to the mainstream media to cover and advocate for the Native tribes at Standing Rock. On Thursday, Jones spoke out on the Chelsea Handler show to call out President Obama’s inaction on the stand-off between the tribes and the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
First, Jones highlighted some basic facts of the situation:
- DAPL was going to run by a white town (Bismarck, ND) but the white people said, ‘Hell, no!’
- The alternative move was to put the pipeline through ‘some of the most sacred land for Native Americans in the world.’
- In an unprecedented action, almost every Native tribe in the country has come together — for the first time since Christopher Columbus — to call a halt to the pipeline. Rather than protesters, they consider themselves ‘water protectors,’ with the goal of preventing the contamination of their only water supply.
- The authorities have responded with nothing but violence toward the water protectors. One of their most recent actions was to spray the Natives with freezing water when the temperature outside was 26 degrees.
- 5,000 natives are saying, ‘Please stop this.’
The journalist first calls out the mainstream media, which ‘for some reason’ has largely chosen to ignore the situation. In September, Jones spoke before a Native gathering to back up their assertion that ‘Water is life’ and added that ‘Oil is death’ — death of our children’s health, death of our oceans, death of our climate.
With 5,000 water protectors on site at Standing Rock — and thousands more on their way, including 2,000 veterans — Van Jones hit the situation hard:
To me, this is Selma. This is Birmingham. This is as big a civil rights movement, and as big a civil rights moment, as you’re ever gonna see.
What Jones has the most difficulty understanding is why the President hasn’t taken action. He said:
President Obama is still the President of the United States right now. He is the President of the United States and I think he should tell the Army Corps of Engineers to cancel this whole project.
If Trump wants to do it, we’ll deal with that later. But President Obama should stand up and say ‘This has gone far enough. It needs to stop. It needs to stop right now.’
Jones isn’t alone in wondering what the hell the President is doing. Is he just going to hand this off to Trump, who will no doubt be on the side of Big Oil?
The news out of the White House was grim. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told journalists:
The President’s hope is that both sides will sit at the table in a constructive spirit.
What? All that has come from the pipeline side of the equation is brutal reactivity and force. When pressed for more with the question ‘He has no plans to get personally involved at this point?’ Earnest added:
I’m not aware of any impending Presidential actions.
Taking a principled stand on the pipeline could be one of President Obama’s finest moments. If, instead, he refuses to do so and hands this debacle off for Trump to finish off, his tenure will end with a very big black mark. The rest of us will be dealing with the consequences for a long, long time.
Watch a clip of the Van Jones interview here:
Feature photo, Van Jones and President Obama, via @VanJones68 on Twitter.