Less than a week after actress Shailene Woodley was arrested at the Dakota Access Pipeline frontlines in North Dakota, and three days before Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman turns herself in for filming Energy Transfer’s violent attacks against unarmed citizens representing #NoDAPL, another public figure finds herself at the mercy of corporate power.
Deia Schlosberg is the award-winning producer of Josh Fox’s 2016 film “How to Let Go of the World (and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change”. Just last night, it was announced that Schlosberg has been charged with three felonies after filming one of five coordinated acts of civil disobedience organized against TransCanada Keystone. She was one of nine people arrested at a protest of a Walhalla, North Dakota tar sands pipeline in which activists manually turned the valves to stop the flow of oil through pipelines spanning from Canada to the U.S. Other actions occurred in Minnesota, Montana, and Washington state.
Upon Schlosberg’s arrest, her footage of the action was confiscated. This Thursday, she was charged with conspiracy including one Class A and two Class C felonies that total a combined 45-year maximum sentence. She remains in prison after Thursday’s bond hearing.
The Ring of Fire Network defends Schlosberg’s actions, saying she “attended the event in order to document the protest – something a journalist often does.” This news is disturbingly similar to the criminal trespassing charges against Goodman of Democracy Now! and should make anyone question if energy corporations have more Freedom of Speech rights than ordinary citizens – especially when activists and community members threatened by these oil projects feel they have no voice or protection from their own governments.
While communities like Standing Rock are left to defend themselves from impending pipeline disasters as crude oil transported across their treaty lands from Canada, the First Nations on the other side of the border face the environmental racism of the extraction projects themselves. The legacy of tar sands amongst the Albertan indigenous communities is horrifying and not talked about enough. The projects lead to toxic tailing ponds so large they can be seen from space. The ponds poison local water supplies, leading to atrocious rates of rare cancers and auto-immune diseases amongst indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the projects destroy sacred lands, disrupt cultural practices, and trample international treaty rights.
Activism against these oil projects is therefore far more than an environmental battle or climate change conversation: It’s protecting the human rights of marginalized people who never find themselves the center of the media’s attention. When someone does choose to act on their behalves, they, like Schlosberg, face controversial and absurd charges for their work.
If you are interested in helping Schlosberg’s case, Josh Fox has created a petition for her release on his film’s website, HowToLetGoMovie.
Keep the #NoDAPL conversation going by using the hashtag and sharing our stories. You can also help Standing Rock supporting the Sacred Stone Camp at http://sacredstonecamp.org/.
Photo: Getty Images