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OUR OPINION: Unlawful protests anger public

A protest can be a volatile scene, a place where hot words can act like sparks on tinder and bring about a conflagration. That's why Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault deserves praise for publicly calling for the protest against the D...

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A protest can be a volatile scene, a place where hot words can act like sparks on tinder and bring about a conflagration. That's why Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault deserves praise for publicly calling for the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline to remain peaceful.

He could have been much more militant, after all.

And if he had been, the past few days may have been much more confrontational.

But Archambault should add one more word to his call, which is the word, "lawful." The protest must remain both peaceful and lawful.

That's the way to draw the public's attention to a cause without inspiring the public's ire.

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That's the way to best ensure the safety of everyone involved, including activists, police officers and pipeline workers.

And that's the way to avoid wasting one's life and actions on a political Lost Cause.

Case in point: Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who instigated an armed standoff with federal officials in 2014, then claimed victory when federal officials, fearing mass bloodshed, backed down.

At the time, it appeared as though the armed insurrectionists might have earned for themselves a pass. But the U.S. government simply was biding its time, as Bundy was arrested earlier this year for his role in the incident. He's now in jail.

So are his two sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy. So are 16 others who allegedly were involved; two of them pleaded guilty just last week.

"Their plea deals call for sentences of six years in federal prison," The Associated Press reported. Furthermore, "each also could be fined as much as $500,000 and be subject to as much as three years of government supervision after prison."

Meanwhile, the militant anti-government cause for which Bundy and the others took up arms has advanced not one corral-length. And if more than a handful of backers and family members are upset over the incarcerations, we haven't heard about it.

The interview with North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley on today's editorial page was conducted Tuesday. At the time, the atmosphere surrounding the pipeline protest was charged, and there was a worry that events could break in dramatic ways.

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That didn't happen, to the best of our knowledge. Archambault's restrained language surely was one reason why.

But now he and other leaders should take the next step and demand that the protest be lawful. As Wrigley notes, there remain all kinds of legal means by which protesters can try to block the pipeline, much to pipeline supporters' dismay. Those are the methods the activists should use, and they can do so without risking a confrontation that could hurt both themselves and their cause.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Related Topics: STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE
Opinion by Thomas Dennis
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