“What this story reveals is that the prison system isn’t damaged. It was designed this fashion. It was meant to be a device of oppression.”
Building is full on the Enbridge company’s Line 3 pipeline, which was dug below the Mississippi River to hold costly, soiled tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, to be refined in Wisconsin. Resistance, led by Indigenous girls and Two-Spirit folks, continues.
As a consequence of Enbridge funding the outsized crackdown on Water Protectors, the entrance traces of resistance have expanded to incorporate courtrooms, the place Indigenous authorized experience has usually confirmed decisive. In Aitkin County, Minn., the trial of Mylene Vialard (aka Ocean) reveals a pipeline of injustice—the structural violence of white settler-colonial capitalist patriarchy.
The Arresting Officer: Sluggish-Strolling Justice
Based on the well-known Water Protector Massive Wind Carpenter, a Two-Spirit member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, the context for the absurdity of Vialard’s arrest and trial is simple. Aitkin County borders the reservation of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and most of the people within the space are both white or Native.
“The vast majority of the cops are white males,” Massive Wind mentioned, and “they aim Indigenous folks, folks of coloration.”
In the summertime of 2019, as Enbridge started transporting pipes, Massive Wind gathered with different Water Protectors at Therapeutic Souls, an off-reservation camp on Ojibwe-owned land. They rapidly observed a sample of sheriffs harassing nontribal allies, forcing them briefly off the property the place they have been visitors. Later that summer time, Sheriff Dan Guida, a white man, tried to arrest Indigenous folks for tenting at a powwow.
A number of months earlier than Vialard’s August 2021 arrest, on the similar location, Sheriff Guida interrupted whereas reporter Alleen Brown interviewed Massive Wind about helicopters patrolling the world. Guida accused Massive Wind of mendacity and later contacted Brown to apologize, admitting that Massive Wind had been appropriate. The whole incident could be heard on the Intercepted podcast.
Massive Wind summarized how Guida’s techniques determine into a bigger escalation technique: “He was attempting to trigger friction.”
Massive Wind has seen Water Protectors of coloration badly injured by regulation enforcement after which charged with felony tried suicide. On the day of Vialard’s arrest, they keep in mind “being actually scared, actually, for Mylene and the opposite one who was concerned, due to the best way that the Aitkin County sheriff’s division was appearing.”
The sheriff has grow to be legendary amongst observers of Vialard’s trial, notably concerning an incident captured on video the day of the arrest. Guida appeared to talk on his cellphone and indicated to observers that he was talking to a “choose.” The prosecution was ordered to acquire data of this name, a routine process—Guida even supplied on the document to go the cellphone firm and procure the data himself—but it surely by no means occurred, and there have been no repercussions.
The Prosecution: A Recognized Harasser Fails Upward
On Sept. 21, 2023, the North Dakota supreme courtroom formally reprimanded Garrett Slyva for his menacing sexual harassment of a consumer, writing: “Slyva’s supervisor on the Public Defender workplace testified the bodily contact with a feminine consumer was inappropriate and alarming as a result of it was a feminine consumer who was incarcerated, and subsequently, susceptible. The Public Defender’s workplace terminated Slyva.”
Garrett Slyva is now the prosecuting lawyer in Vialard’s trial.
Vialard’s protection lawyer, Claire Glenn, mentioned the ruling “was disturbing and even painful to learn. … She was so afraid of Mr. Slyva that she requested jail employees to pay attention in to her attorney-client cellphone calls. That’s the one type of privateness that incarcerated folks retain: their means to have non-public, attorney-client-privileged communication. She gave that up and gave up the authorized protections of the attorney-client privilege.”
Glenn mentioned that “Slyva obtained a slap on the wrist, and nothing extra—there’s no ‘it is advisable to meet with our therapists, it is advisable to not signify shoppers till we clear you, you’ll be able to’t follow till we do a psych eval to just remember to have found out your points that you’ve with sexual harassment and violence in opposition to girls.’
“He’s now in an much more highly effective place,” Glenn continued, “the place as a prosecutor he’s interacting with defendants who’re unrepresented, of which there are various in northern Minnesota. He’s interacting with alleged victims. He’s interacting with many, many susceptible folks.”
Guida’s misconduct, as reported by observers of Vialard’s trial, is just too intensive to record. Slyva claimed folks within the gallery have been speaking to jurors, however when polled, not one juror confirmed it. Slyva repeatedly referred to rulings already dismissed and, subsequently, not allowable. Slyva disregarded Vialard’s testimony about her immigration standing, making an attempt to say she was not an American citizen.
Massive Wind, who has attended many trials and has private expertise going through prices associated to direct motion and civil disobedience, mentioned, “Mylene’s trial was wild. I had by no means seen a lot unprofessionalism from the prosecutor.”
The Decide: Resuscitating Aitkin County’s Previous-Boy Community
The record of misconduct by Senior Decide Douglas P. Anderson is equally huge. Claire Glenn, Vialard’s lawyer, “needed to constantly deliver up the sexism that was occurring in that courtroom. The choose was simply bending the foundations,” as Massive Wind described it.
Repeatedly, the choose ought to have elicited Glenn’s feedback earlier than making choices, although he all the time remembered the prosecution’s. A police officer witness listened within the gallery behind Glenn and Vialard, and so they solely discovered of it when that witness took the stand. Glenn even needed to open a regulation ebook to show the choose and prosecutor so they may carry out their jobs. And on and on and on.
In certainly one of Glenn’s requests for a mistrial, she identified that the exhausting stream of misconduct appeared like a technique for poisoning the jury in opposition to her, because it pressured her to make so many objections that she might seem as if she have been in contempt of courtroom.
Glenn, a Minneapolis-based lawyer at present on employees with Local weather Protection Challenge, has represented practically 100 Water Protectors thus far, together with Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid and Daybreak Goodwin, three Native girls whose prison prices, additionally in Aitkin County, have been dropped by Decide Leslie Metzen.
For Glenn, it’s no coincidence that the “ruling got here from a choose who was the primary lady appointed to the judicial districts that she served in at some point of her profession, who was keen to pay attention and was keen to be courageous and make a ruling about what is true within the broader sense, even because the regulation twists itself in knots to create mechanisms for energy to retain energy.”
Such victories are uncommon, nonetheless, and the variety of instances is important. Glenn mentioned that “as a result of Enbridge was reimbursing regulation enforcement, there have been large incentives to criminalize and arrest folks past what the system might deal with via the judiciary.” In response, many judges got here out of retirement, largely older white males like Decide Anderson.
Georgia Bowder-Newton, who met Vialard via their mutual participation within the Giniw Collective and has attended all 5 days of the trial, described “listening to issues from individuals who have been to many trials, that this was essentially the most farcical trial that they’d ever been to. I used to be like, ‘Okay. Famous. I ought to anticipate this.’”
The Jury: ‘Like Fantasy Soccer’
Regardless of the big Indigenous inhabitants within the space, there have been solely two folks of coloration among the many a number of dozen potential jurors: a Latino man and an Indigenous lady. By selecting them early and later having them stricken, Prosecutor Slyva ensured they may not take part. As Massive Wind quipped, “It’s like fantasy soccer.”
Massive Wind additionally described how a instructor who expressed assist for the civil rights motion and had attended a Ladies’s March within the Twin Cities was tormented by Slyva on that foundation.
The ensuing jury, although equal in numbers of men and women, was conservative, largely older, white folks. Vialard talked about that the Giniw Collective’s camp had been the other: “The age spectrum was fairly broad, with a reasonably notable absence of middle-aged white activists.”
“All people knew the sheriffs and knew the police,” in accordance with Bowder-Newton, who mentioned one juror shared that her husband goes searching with Sheriff Guida, and one other juror was the monetary supervisor of the retirement accounts of a number of officers within the sheriff’s division. The jury additionally, in accordance with Bowder-Newton, included a former police officer, people who train and babysit for the sheriff’s kids, a girl who had just lately labored as a jailer and thought she might need encountered Vialard, and a former Enbridge worker.
Bowder-Newton recalled protection lawyer Glenn stating that the jury pool was not appropriately consultant. Decide Anderson dismissed Glenn’s objections.
Based on attendees seated within the gallery, one juror often mouthed gendered obscenities comparable to “b*tch” and “f*ck her” when Glenn approached the bench, at which one other juror laughed out loud. Glenn requested that the juror be dismissed. He was not.
… Even the Bailiff
Vialard’s protection requested a Zoom hyperlink for the general public to attend the trial on-line, as had been out there throughout the pretrial proceedings. The movement was denied, however a Zoom assembly was arrange for a lawyer on the protection staff to take part long-distance as a consequence of sickness, with the clear understanding that nobody else could be admitted.
Many attendees reported noticing a courtroom bailiff listening to the trial on his laptop computer with out earbuds or headphones whereas he supervised the entrance entrance to the constructing. The sound could possibly be heard on three flooring because it wafted up the stairwell, together with when the jury was dismissed.
The System Was Constructed This Means
“The state is feeling threatened by the quantity of strain that they’re receiving,” mentioned Massive Wind. “That is an intentional strategy to silence dissent, to weaponize the regulation.”
To this point, there have been 4 aquifer breaches on the brand new Line 3, together with one the place Vialard was arrested. Whereas Vialard faces trumped-up felony prices for her nonviolent direct motion in Aitkin County, Enbridge’s misdimeanor cost for the breach in Clearwater County has been dropped.
Vialard’s sentencing listening to is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 20.
The oppression of local weather patriarchy exemplifies what feminist thinker Marilyn Frye defined as a double bind: If we shield the earth, we’re persecuted, and if we don’t, the outcomes are catastrophic.
Glenn sees the present repression of local weather activism as an intensification of enterprise as standard: “I’ve heard folks say issues like ‘the prison system ought to be going after the actual prison.’ However I feel what this story reveals is that the prison system isn’t damaged. It was designed this fashion. It was meant to be a device of oppression. It originated within the South from slave patrols. It originated within the North from state-sanctioned union-busting violence.
“We’re all stronger once we acknowledge that activists usually are not particular. The prison system is violent to all people. It’s how the system is designed to operate.”
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