Standing Rock Sioux Supporters to L.A. City Council: “Divest from Wells Fargo.”

14 Mar

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About two hundred people, led by local indigenous leaders, marched on Friday, March 10, from Pershing Square to the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, to demand the city council divest from the banks that have invested in Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines.

The Los Angeles event was in solidarity with the demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and was part of the solidarity effort in 12 other cities across the United States, according to website of Indigenous Environmental Network and the Native Organizers Alliance.  Click here to go to the website.

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Lydia Ponce with microphone speaking at Pershing Square, March 10, with Frances Fisher standing behind her.  Photo by Barry Saks

Before marching to Los Angeles City Hall, a rally was held on Olive Ave. near the corner with 5th Street, next to Pershing Square.  Lydia Ponce, who is from the American Indian Movement and Idle No More of Southern California, emceed the rally.  Ponce said, “Standing Rock in not over…. The water wars are not here yet, but they are happening in Mexico.”  She also pointed out water has been rationed in Canada for the last four years.

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Before speaking, Fixxco (left) standing next to Lydia Ponce (right) on Friday, March 10.

One speaker Ponce introduced was Fixxco.  Fixxco said he only goes by his one name.  He said he went to Standing Rock the first week in November and that he was asked to be part of the group “to protect the camp—women and children and elders.”  He said, “On Nov. 20, they (law enforcement) attacked us for simply removing a vehicle off the bridge…. My camp elder, my grandfather, Standing Horse, fell.  He had a heart attack.  He was hit by a concussion grenade in the heart and he died in my arms…. We are protectors, not protesters.”

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An elder drumming and dancing, Friday, March 10, with children behind him dancing in front of Wells Fargo branch.  Photo by Barry Saks

After the first rally on Olive next to Pershing Square, the march weaved its way through the financial district, where it stopped at a Wells Fargo branch for a brief second rally, which included a prayer.

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Cheyenne Phoenix addressing crowd, on Friday, March 10, at L.A. City Hall.  Photo by Barry Saks

From the second rally, the march headed through Grand Park to the steps of Los Angeles City Hall for the final rally of the day.  Cheyenne Phoenix, who characterized herself as coming from Navajo and Northern Piute Nation, emceed.  Phoenix, who is a Long Beach City College sociology student, in her opening remarks, said, “We are gathered here today because our relatives at Standing Rock in Washington, D.C. are gathering for a native-nations-wide march…. We are standing in solidarity with each other, with our water protectors everywhere.”  She then pointed out that L.A. get more than 40 percent its water from the Owens Valley, which was once Piute land.

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Shannon Rivers speaking, Friday, March 10, at L.A. City Hall.  Photo by Barry Saks

One of the speakers at the rally on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall was Shannon Rivers.  Rivers said, “Five hundred twenty-four years ago, an ideology was brought here….  It’s the idea of greed and capitalism.  You suffer from a disease called capitalism.  You keep taking from the earth and without giving back.  You constantly want something without giving thanks.”

Another speaker was Frances Fisher.  Fisher, who also spoke at Pershing Square, said, “We are here to divest L.A.”  She asked the crowd to go online and sign a petition, which was going to be sent to the City Council after another 500 signatures are gathered.  She then read the petition.  The beginning of the petition reads, “We the people call on the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council to divest from Wells Fargo.”  She then announced the phone numbers of the city council representatives for the crowd to call.  To read the petition online, click here.

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Kwazi Nkrumah, Friday, March 10, speaking at City Hall.  Photo by Barry Saks 

And still another speaker was Kwazi Nkrumah. Nkrumah, who is a leader of the MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.) Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, pointed out the week before the temperature of the outer edge of Antarctica was measured at 65 degrees Fahrenheit and added it meant the Pacific Island nations could be submerged in years.  He then said L.A. has about a 100 neighborhood councils and urged the crowd to get their friends and neighbors to go to their councils and get them to come out in favor of divesting.

One chant on the march was “Sisters and brothers, let’s defend our mother (earth).”  Another was “The people united will never be divided.”  A third chant was “Who is funded by the banks?  Pipelines and Tanks” and a fourth chant was “Up, Up with people.  Down, down with the pipeline.”  A fifth chant was “Who stands with Standing Rock.  We stand with Standing Rock” and a sixth was “You can’t drink oil.  Keep it the soil.”  A seventh chant was “Whose streets? Our Streets” and an eighth was “They’re killing our sons and daughters.  They’re poisoning the water.”  A ninth chant was “Wells Fargo opens fraudulent accounts.”  A tenth chant was “When your body is put to the test? Stand up, fight back.”

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Michael Rotcher with his sign, Friday, March 10, before marching.  Photo by Barry Saks

One of those who marched was Michael Rotcher.  Rotcher said that he was from Orange County, that he was in support of those who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline and that he was “concerned for the water rights of the indigenous people there.”  He added, “We got a head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) now that does not believe in climate change.  That is shocking… It is a bad thing for the people who depend on that water for their livelihood and it is a terrible thing for all of us.”

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David Calvillo with his sign, on Friday, March 10, before marching.  Photo by Barry Saks

Another marcher was David Calvillo.  Calvillo said he was from north Long Beach and had taken the light-rail system to get to Pershing Square.  Calvillo said he woke up and realized he had to be there with like-minded people.  He said his family is from Arizona and is Hopi.  He said his great-grandparents looked like the Native American on “the Buffalo nickel.” He said this struggle was “important for the generations that come after us.”

A third marcher was Alvaro Maldonado, who characterized himself as a longtime activist.  Maldonado said, “I’m worried the direction the fossil fuel industry is taking us…. I believe that working-class folks are the ones who will create the change.  By no means is the Democratic Party going to a make these changes because they are completely tied to Wall Street, big capital, big oil corporations, war production companies, etc.  So they are not going to do it.  It’s going to take us from below, the people from below.”

A fourth marcher was Natasha Gascon.  Gascon said she is “truth speaker” and a 37-year-old female business student at East Los Angeles College, where she has also studied Administration of Justice.

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Unknown Artist Drawn Banner, Friday, March 10.  Photo by Barry Saks

 

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