MANSFIELD: A Hand He Might Not Want to Play


By signing an executive order on Tuesday to clear the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the new president just might be precipitating a crisis at the beginning of his administration that could prove his undoing. And it would be highly ironic if the peoples whom this country was stolen from were the one’s to take the first step toward saving it. But they would need help from all of those folks who marched in Washington and other cities the day after the inauguration.

A quick refresher for those who were not paying attention (which sadly includes too many Americans): The pipeline has long been under fire from Native Americans who are concerned that it’s being built on sacred ground and burial sites, while conservation organizations — such as Greenpeace — have opposed the pipeline over concerns about negative impacts on water, air, farming and wildlife. Late last year the Obama administration halted construction of the project, but virtually everyone knew that Trump would bring it back to life as soon as he took office. This is why elections matter, folks.

Supporters contend that the pipeline is the “safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from domestic wells to U.S. consumers.” They also say “the pipeline will not cross Standing Rock Sioux reservation land, even at the point of dispute at Lake Oahe.” Further, developers point out the economic benefits from jobs, sales and income taxes. But these are the same folks who will “pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” all in the name of the great god profit. They really don’t care what kind of planet they leave their children and grandchildren.

Last spring, the Standing Rock Sioux (whose reservation is near the proposed route of the pipeline, and whose water supply could be contaminated by it) set up a camp within their reservation as a base of protest. By fall the protests escalated as thousands jammed the sites and clashed with police. On November 15, protests were held in major U.S. cities on a “National Day of Action” and on December 4, cheers erupted around the country as news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement that would have allowed the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe — effectively halting work on the project.

But now it’s back, and all of those millions of folks who marched and then asked the question “What do we do next?” now have their answer: Go to North Dakota and support Native peoples in their struggle — which really is our struggle. And rotate people in and out for as long as it takes. Overwhelm the forces of oppression with the bodies of protestors.

All of the folks who didn’t go to the polls to stop a potential despot from becoming president, who were willing to sit comfortably at home and let others do the heavy lifting of democracy (and let’s face it, going out and voting isn’t asking all that much, but only half of the eligible electorate did so), now is the time to rectify the error of their ways. Rarely do folks get a second shot, but this time it’s different. A person can make it right, but they have to be willing to be disruptive, simply by showing up.

Democracy isn’t always all about ice cream socials and making protest signs in a church basement; sometimes it’s about putting your ass on the line — and this is one of those times folks. If just 10% of the people who marched on January 21 simply showed up and stood with their Native American brothers and sisters for as long as it takes, Trump would be knocked out before he even begins.

And here’s why: If enough Americans show up to shut construction down it’s bound to get ugly, and probably even violent. Shots could be fired and people could get killed. But as in any demonstration, it depends on the individual how close they want to be to the front line. A person can protest there from a safe distance, but not from the safe distance of their living room. Remember what Jefferson said about the “Tree of liberty …”

As for me, at this critical juncture in our nation’s history I can’t expect others to do what I’m not willing to do. It’s up to each individual to make a personal statement as to how much the Republic means to him or her. But make no mistake — we are a country in crisis.

So just as soon as I see those Americans who have been sitting comfortably on the sidelines doing nothing, just as soon as I see them join in and take part in onsite protests, I’m in — I’m off to Standing Rock. It’s time for true progressives to either put up or just shut the fuck up. What do you want to tell your kids and grandkids about what you did when democracy was on the line?


From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at




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2 Responses to “MANSFIELD: A Hand He Might Not Want to Play”

  1. Freddo

    ” What do you want to tell your kids and grandkids about what you did when democracy was on the line?”. I’ll tell them that democracy is messy. You are not always right, and only your Mom and your credit card company can be counted on to protect you.

  2. Sandie Sajner

    Thank you Cool Cleveland and Mansfield Frazier for the article. I stand for Standing Rock, I’ve been to their Native site at the Cultural Gardens on Martin Luther King Blvd and I was at the Women’s March in Cleveland. I post on my FB page and I help and support where I can. United We Rise at the Cultural Garden, Sat the 28th at 3pm: #hesnotmypresident

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