The months-long protest over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, termed #NoDAPL, has resonated with people all across the country and, as it turns out, even overseas.
On Thursday, Dec. 15, Baltimore native and current Jerusalem resident Leah Raher is holding an event in Jerusalem — the Circle of Solidarity: People’s Empowerment Celebration — designed to show support for the #NoDAPL movement. Despite the big win for protestors last weekend when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would refuse to grant the easement needed for pipeline construction to continue and launch a full environmental impact study, Raher planned for the event to continue.
“I feel like it’s really important for the Native Americans to know their prayers and voices have touched those here in Israel,” she said.
The event will be a one-hour program where she will begin with a short speech, show a video collage of the progress of the movement, invite everyone to sing “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson and close with a water ceremony and moment of reflection.
Raher hopes the event can serve as both an inspiration and call to action.
“It’s a way to say, ‘Look guys, we just saw a nonviolent protest beat the corporate bad guys,’” she said. (The protests have included some altercations with police, with the latter using rubber bullets, tear gas and fire hoses sprayed into the crowd in freezing temperatures, among other methods. Police have alleged that some protesters have been violent, including throwing rocks at officers.)
This isn’t the first time Raher has been a part of a cause started by Native Americans. When she was 16, she joined up for a time with a collection of tribes who were marching on Washington, D.C., in protest of treaty violations. She said the event “left an indelible impression on me.”
She believes the #NoDAPL protests have resonated because it is a stark visual to watch the protestors put their bodies on the line to protect both nature and Native heritage for current and future generations. To her, this idea should be especially moving for Jews.
“This is very much in the fabric of Jewish history and psyche — at least it should be,” she said.
Raher is not the only Baltimore connection to the #NoDAPL. Former Baltimore police officer and Marine Corps veteran Michael A. Wood Jr. helped organize a group of around 2,000 veterans who traveled to Standing Rock to protect protestors. Wood has been an outspoken critic of police brutality and the use of excessive force.
When contacted, the spokesperson handling media requests for the veterans at Standing Rock confirmed that Wood was currently in one of the main protest camps and hunkered down for an incoming blizzard.
Despite being thousands of miles away, Raher hopes the event will speak to the larger themes of the movement, such as nonviolent protest and protecting nature.
“I hope that from the Native Americans to the community in Jerusalem, the take-away message is that love knows no bounds, that people of faith are one community,” she said.