Giving Compass' Take:
- Alleen Brown and Naveena Sadasivam unpack documents showing how Energy Transfer, the Dakota Access Pipeline parent company, supported police through gear purchases and used spin doctors to shift public opinion.
- What role can you play in supporting Indigenous-led protests and movements? How can you help to counter this type of strategic narrative hijacking?
- Read about shifting philanthropic power to Indigenous people.
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Their protest encampment razed, the Indigenous-led environmental movement at North Dakota’s Standing Rock reservation was searching for a new tactic. By March 2017, the fight over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline had been underway for months. Leaders of the movement to defend Indigenous rights on the land — and its waterways — had a new aim: to march on Washington.
Native leaders and activists, calling themselves water protectors, wanted to show the newly elected President Donald Trump that they would continue to fight for their treaty rights to lands including the pipeline route. The march would be called “Native Nations Rise.”
Law enforcement was getting ready, too — and discussing plans with Energy Transfer, the parent company of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Throughout much of the uprising against the pipeline, the National Sheriffs’ Association talked routinely with TigerSwan, Energy Transfer’s lead security firm on the project, working hand-in-hand to craft pro-pipeline messaging. A top official with the sheriffs’ public relations contractor, Off The Record Strategies, floated a plan to TigerSwan’s lead propagandist, a man named Robert Rice.
“Thoughts on a crew or a news reporter — or someone pretending to be — with a camera and microphone to report from the main rally on the Friday, ask questions about pipeline and slice together [sic]?” Mark Pfeifle suggested over email.
A security firm led by a former member of the U.S. military’s shadowy special forces, TigerSwan was no stranger to such deception. The company had, in fact, used fake reporters before — including Rice himself — to spread its message and to spy on pipeline opponents. The National Sheriffs’ Association’s involvement in advocating for a similar disinformation campaign against the anti-pipeline movement has not been previously reported.
TigerSwan also placed an order for a catalog of so-called less-lethal weapons for police use, including tear gas. The security contractor even planned to facilitate an exchange where Energy Transfer and police could share purported evidence of illegal activity.
Read the full article about the Standing Rock protests by Alleen Brown and Naveena Sadasivam at Grist.