By Phelim McAleer
November 3, 2016 | 8:45pm
Well, I went to North Dakota to meet these water protectors and hear their prayers and see the sage being smudged. What could go wrong?
At first it was fun. I’m from Northern Ireland, so I was welcomed by the Native American leaders, many of whom had been to Belfast.
Day Two wasn’t so peaceful. As a journalist, I decided it was time for some tough questions. Most of the protesters were from out of state. So how did they square the circle of using vehicles driven by oil to protest an oil pipeline? Their tents were also made of plastic — an oil-based product. Was that not hypocritical, I asked? Some denied this, others complained capitalism made them do it, and others just walked away.
But by the fourth interview the mood turned.
A young man claiming to be “security” came up and grabbed my microphone. I wouldn’t let go. He dragged me across the field — just for asking questions.
But worse was to follow, as my crew and I fled to our car.
When we tried to drive off, we were surrounded by cars and people. Two trucks blocked our way forward, and another pulled up tight behind. We couldn’t move. These weren’t grandmothers burning sage. They were angry, young masked men banging on the windows — threatening to slash our tires, demanding we exit the vehicle. Some warned that if we didn’t get out and hand over our footage then “we can’t control what’s gonna happen next.”
As we tried to call the police, they warned that the cops wouldn’t come onto the campsite — they hadn’t yet after two months of protests. I’m an Irish nationalist who grew up under British rule in Ireland, but according to those attacking my car I was “part of the problem with my settler mentality.”
Then they started shaking the car. That was when it became really scary. We were in the middle of North Dakota with very poor cellphone service and trying to call 911 was proving difficult.