In November, C-VILLE reported on locals who spent their Thanksgiving holiday protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Reservation. The Army Corps of Engineers halted its construction weeks later, but some say the fight isn’t over.
Holding a sign that says, “STOP DAPL FOR GOOD,” Charlottesville resident Melissa Luce says Energy Transfer Partners—the company backing the pipeline—is currently in Washington, D.C., trying to reverse orders. And it’s well known that President-elect Donald Trump has already voiced his support for the project.
Hoping the halt in construction won’t take the “wind out of the sails of the protest,” she calls the decision more of a “symbolic victory” than anything.
Today she stood in front of West Main Street’s George Rogers Clark statue with protesters Sue Frankel-Streit and Melissa Wender—the latter of who will return to Bismarck, North Dakota, tomorrow to face both federal and municipal charges that were brought against her while at Standing Rock a few weeks prior.
“I have no doubts as to the cause,” Wender says, adding that she’s been advised by her public defense lawyer not to talk about her charges.
Though she left the Oceti Sakowin camp the day before protestors were blasted with water cannons, she says she experienced a different kind of violence: “The assertiveness of the riot cops is pretty intense. I sort of felt that my presence as a white 50-year-old unarmed lady would be a deterrent, but it really didn’t stop the pepper spray.”
Law enforcement sprayed Wender with mace though she was complying with their orders and slowly backing in the direction they were guiding her, she says.
Looking behind her at the Clark monument, she points out how the “conqueror of the northwest” rides valiantly on his horse while indigenous people cower in front and behind him.
“This statue is so shameful,” she says. “It’s very upsetting that this is the entrance to UVA.”
Clark, born in Albemarle County in 1752, was a military leader during the American Revolution, in which many Native Americans were killed. Clark is praised for his part in ending the war and awarding the Old Northwest to the United States.
Nodding to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces’ recent decision to contextualize controversial memorials in town, she says she hopes another statue of similar size is erected beside Clark’s, one that she says will hopefully tell visitors, “Oh, by the way, we really don’t support genocide.”