Audio: #NoDAPL Activist Says Protest Camps Aren’t Safe, Decries “Lawlessness”


On my radio show today I interviewed #NoDAPL activist D’Shawn Cunningham.

Cunningham is a veteran of the BOLD Nebraska protests against the Keystone XL pipeline. He came to North Dakota to help activists here oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, but what he saw here left him warning people away from the protest movement. He’s now saying people shouldn’t go to the protest camps or give the movement money.

You can read a lengthy Facebook post he wrote about his experiences below.

“You have to overlook a lot of things” to think the protest camps are safe, Cunningham told me. He said people who stay at the camp for a short amount of time – people he described as “tourists” – have an “ignorance of what’s going on.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”You have to overlook a lot of things” to think the protest camps are safe, Cunningham told me.[/mks_pullquote]

Cunningham said that members of the media had their equipment taken away from them, and were told they couldn’t leave. There is a “tendency to single out people in the media who would have provided exposure for what was going on,” he told me. He himself was blocked from leaving at one point, saying he was “accused of potentially ruining the protest.”

He said there is “a lot of good at the camps,” but added that there were problems including security, hoarding supplies, and misappropriating money.

Cunningham told me that he wants the protest movement to be successful in blocking the pipeline, but said that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s indifference to “lawlessness” in the protest camps would hurt it.

“Having standards for ourselves is not a negative thing,” he told me, adding that if the protesters don’t regulate themselves “outside agencies will come in and regulate for us.”

He said one camp in particular – the Red Warrior Camp led by activist Cody Hall who is often quoted in the media – was problematic. He said most of the violent and unlawful protest behavior was coming from that camp, and that internally the Standing Rock tribal leadership would like those things to stop. Cunningham says Standing Rock won’t speak out publicly about this because they’re afraid of the public seeing disunity in the movement.

Here’s Cunningham’s Facebook post:

Here’s audio of our interview today: