Midwest Mobilization Protest: Interview with a Water Warrior
By Crystal Defatte for Progressive Voices of Iowa
For our continued coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Boone County, Iowa, I spoke with water warrior Heather Pearson about the Midwest Mobilization protest she took part in yesterday, September 22, 2016, alongside roughly 175 people (11 of which received citations from the police).
CD: Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview. How many of the DAPL protests have you taken part in so far?
HP: Last year I gave testimony against the pipeline in front of the Iowa Utilities Board. Since then I have been to many solidarity rallies and four direct actions.
CD: What was your testimony in front of the IUB?
HP: To summarize, I told them that I think it’s appalling that my elected representatives are so willing to sell out Iowan’s private property rights to a private corporation that is only seeking to fatten its bottom line with an export pipeline. This project is all risk , no reward for Iowans. Why should the people of America’s Heartland have to take on the risk to their soil and water for an export pipeline?
CD: How well do you feel your testimony was received? Did the board seem receptive to hearing your argument?
HP: They were unmoved.
CD: You mentioned solidarity rallies and direct actions; what makes one different than the other?
HP: A direct action carries a bit more risk than a rally. The goal for our direct actions have been to delay construction by participating in peaceful civil disobedience. History has proven that to be a successful tactic.
CD: Have you had much success in delaying the construction during these direct actions?
HP: We have had some success. We were able to prevent equipment from accessing the site. We are also sending a message. Iowans don’t want this pipeline. We are willing to risk arrest if we have to. Personally, I have now been arrested twice and cited for a 3rd violation as of yesterday.
CD: Would you walk us through yesterday’s Midwest Mobilization protest?
HP: The day started with speakers and workshops. We had a plan in place to shake things up a bit. A large caravan of protestors rallied at one of the construction sites. It was a beautiful site! I led a second, smaller caravan of vehicles committed to peaceful civil disobedience. We parked our vehicles in front of the entrance to the site, effectively preventing equipment from coming or going. Team members from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement then put a letter on each vehicle to send a message to the president. It said Obama NoDAPL. The owners of the vehicles will all be cited and fined $200
CD: What were the vehicle owners cited for exactly?
HP: Stopping on a traveled way.
CD: Was this a new tactic or had this been implemented in other direct actions you have taken part in?
HP: This was a new tactic. In the past, we have linked hands to physically block the driveway. The ICCI team did a great job of orchestrating this plan. We knew that we could be risking the vehicles getting towed, but we were not planning to risk arrest.
CD: Was your vehicle one that was towed?
HP: No. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department graciously allowed us to move our vehicles with an investigation and citation pending. The vehicle that was directly blocking the entrance was towed and cited on the spot.
CD: Was there just one entrance blocked?
HP: Yes. I believe that particular site only has one entrance.
CD: Was there anything else that made yesterday’s direct action unique?
HP: We had Members of the Oceti Sakowin from standing Rock and members of Iowa’s Meskwaki tribe arrive in solidarity. We camped together on a property near the beautiful Des Moines River. We shared songs, stories, and prayers. I am so grateful to have met them. They are prayer warriors, changing the collective consciousness one prayer at a time.
CD: It sounds like it was a very powerful experience, is there anything else you want our readers to know about yesterday or about the protests in general?
HP: Sometimes we have to engage in peaceful civil disobedience in order to make our voices heard and to hold our elected officials accountable. We have exhausted all other avenues. We call upon Governor Branstad and President Obama to stop this export pipeline once and for all. We don’t want it.
CD: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview and for all you have done on the front lines of the battle for clean water.
HP: Thank you.