A total of 136 people were arrested on the first day of a five-day demonstration, Indigenous protesters at the site revealed.
While some folks celebrated Columbus Day in honor of the violent colonizer Christopher Columbus on October 11, Indigenous communities took to the streets of Washington, DC, to commemorate Indigenous Peoples' Day. Several groups, including Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), and People vs. Fossil Fuels, took part in a demonstration to send United States President Joe Biden a message about their demands. These demands are, namely, respect for Indigenous sovereignty, an end to fossil fuel projects, and the need to declare a climate emergency. Despite the peaceful nature of their protests, Indigenous leaders were arrested in front of the White House, multiple accounts on Twitter reveal.
Live from Washington DC: From October 11 to 15, thousands of people are taking action at the White House, participating in civil disobedience, and demanding that President Biden choose a side: People vs. Fossil Fuels. Join us! pic.twitter.com/BtiwmZAb7i— Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) (@CJAOurPower) October 11, 2021
The official Twitter account for the IEN posted, "HAPPENING NOW: DC law enforcement has brought out [a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)] to use against elders on Indigenous Peoples’ Day!" In subsequent tweets, the group shared that the LRAD was utilized on Indigenous Elders, Water Protectors, and their allies. A total of 136 people were arrested, several of them Indigenous leaders. "We are going to put our bodies on the line there," Casey Camp Horinek, a long-time activist, tribal elder, and environmental ambassador for Ponca Nation (located in what is now Oklahoma), told DeSmog in an interview. "If we have to be arrested in order to call attention to what the crisis is and that we need a climate emergency declared, we’ll do that."
She continued, "There [have] been 500 years of people coming into a territory where all things were interdependent and functioning to a time of crisis, where even Biden’s great-grandchildren won’t survive if something doesn’t change." The protest was part of a five-day demonstration. Members from Indigenous communities and their allies marched from Freedom Square to the White House, where multiple community leaders voiced their concerns. They called on President Biden to honor his promises to protect the planet.
In addition to this, the Andrew Jackson statue at the White House was "redecorated." Indigenous community members scrawled the words "expect us" over the base of the statue in bright red spray paint. "Today is Indigenous Peoples' Day but don’t get it twisted, colonization is not over," IEN shared in a tweet about the graffiti. "Native [people] are still fighting settler violence via fossil fuel extraction across Turtle Island." Over the course of the next few days, protesters are expected to continue making speeches and singing in front of the White House in the face of threats from US Park Police officials. They claimed those who did not move away from the White House would be slapped with arrest warrants or hefty fines.
Nonetheless, members of the Indigenous community have been relentless. Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux and a national pipeline campaign organizer with the IEN, affirmed, "Joe Biden, you have been making false promises. You stopped Keystone XL—what about DAPL, Line 5, MVP? Biden has turned a fork tongue, and he needs to be held accountable [for] the promises he made to Indigenous nations when we helped elect him. This is Indigenous land. Indigenous peoples will be here for thousands of years. Biden, can you hear us now?"