Climate Justice Unity March: Day 8

Saturday, April 29, 2017 – Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol (7 miles)

It’s just under a seven-mile march from our church lodging in Pleasant Hill to the Iowa State Capitol for the People’s Climate Movement Rally. We set out on schedule and arrive at Sleepy Hollow for our break, just as it’s starting to rain.

Marching to the Capitol

We know we won’t stay dry for long, but take this opportunity to sit under the facility’s patio roof for our half-hour break. There’s a car out front, suggesting staff is present, so figure I’ll let them know we’re here. I try the door, and it’s unlocked, so I enter, to be greeted by a blaring security alarm.

I quickly exit the way I came in, apologize to other marchers as I make a lame joke about setting off the alarm about the climate crisis. I call the Des Moines Police Department, and the matter is soon resolved.

Donnielle Wanatee and Shelley Buffalo are the opening speakers, and Heather Pearson wraps up the rally. As with Donnielle and Shelley, Heather has been a solid leader on the March, and her speech is a powerful closing statement for both the march and the rally. Here’s what she had to say:

“I am an air breathing, water drinking, Iowa pipeline fighter. For the last seven days we have marched 85 miles across Iowa to discuss climate justice and unity with rural communities along the way. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone to agree to march 85 miles, but it’s not the first time that this fight has taken me outside of that comfort zone.

“Most Iowans have been opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline since it was first proposed three years ago. Last year, I was asked to give testimony in front of the Iowa Utilities Board at their meeting in Boone. I’d never been to Boone before and didn’t know a single person there. That experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.

“I told the Board that I find it appalling that they were so willing to trample Iowans’ private property rights while putting our air, our farmland, our water and our climate at risk just so that a private corporation can fatten its bottom line with an export pipeline.

Heather Pearson addresses rally. Photo by Jack Schuler

“In August, I got a call from Ed Fallon asking if I would be willing to risk arrest while participating in peaceful civil disobedience. I’d never been arrested before, or even had any interaction with law enforcement. In the days leading up to direct action I was anxious, and again had to step out of my comfort zone because I felt that it was my duty. I’d signed the ‘No Bakken Pledge of Resistance’ and the movement needed people power. I was handcuffed and taken away.

“Fast forward a couple of months. I met a farmer named Shirley Gerjets. Dakota Access had already begun construction on her property against her will even though she hadn’t had her day in court to fight eminent domain. As I stepped onto Shirley’s property, with her permission, I handed the Sheriff the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement signed by 188 climate scientists. I stated that it was my justification for being on that property.

“Of course, I was arrested yet again. I have pled not guilty and am now preparing to take my case to court since climate change is indeed justification for stepping onto a fossi-fuel easement.

“Again and again, I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone. You see, we must all step out of our comfort zones. We must all come together and raise our voices to hold our elected officials accountable for the decisions they’re making about our water, our air, our soil and our climate. Climate justice is a human rights issue. We must unite for climate justice. We must all step out of our comfort zones because that’s where real change occurs.”

 

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)

Chap Myers

We scramble out of our tents early today for the ride to Des Moines for Donnielle Wanatee’s trial. She was arrested for trespass at Governor Branstad’s office during the February 22 Day of Action Against DAPL. Donnielle pled “not guilty” and asked for a jury trial. The judge denied her request. Nevertheless, she persists.

It’s a miserable morning. The wind and rain make it impossible for our cook, Chap Myers, to keep the stove lit. Some marchers opt for a cold breakfast. Most of us end up at the Coffee Cup Cafe across the street, grateful that it opens at 6:00. With the cumulative exertion of four days of marching, my caloric output has surged to that of a college athlete. I order the menu’s largest breakfast, which finds its way into my fuel tank faster than civilized dining standards allow.

Jon Neiderbach and Donnielle Wanatee

Today, we’re an organized, efficient group and arrive on schedule at the Polk County Justice Center. When I enter the court room, Donnielle is already testifying. She comports herself with clarity and dignity. Jon Neiderbach, an attorney who marched with us for two days, represents Donnielle pro bono.

The trial is quick and predictable. The judge praises Donnielle’s commitment to clean water but finds her guilty of trespass. She wants a jury trial, but the judge had previously cited a procedural nuance that denies her this right. With Jonathan’s help, she appeals the judge’s ruling, insisting on her right to a jury trial. I’m proud of both her and Jon. It’s a great start to the day, and we haven’t even marched a step.

By early afternoon, we’re back in Sully to begin the day’s 10-mile trek. The rain’s stopped, and we again carry the American flag at the front of the march column. Isidra and Annie lead the way, taking turns as flag-bearer.

Marchers gather in front of Lois and Irving Vander Leest’s piano lawn art

Three miles from Reasnor, we meet Lois and Irving Vander Leest. Their farm is on the path of the pipeline, and it’s here that construction equipment was torched by an arsonist last August.

The Vander Leests strongly support the pipeline. Lois assures me she’s had no trouble with either the pipeline company or the workers. I’m candid with her about my opposition, based on concerns about climate, water and the abuse of eminent domain. We concur that arson is inexcusable, and she and Irving agree to join us for dinner tonight at the United Methodist Church in Reasnor. Before we set out from the Vander Leests’ farm, we pose for a picture in front of a piano cleverly repurposed as a lawn ornament.

Marchers pause for prayer as they cross the path of the Dakota access pipeline

Two miles from Reasnor we cross the pipeline. The scar from last year’s construction is still visible. We pray. Donnielle offers tobacco. It’s a solemn moment. I think of the 570,000 barrels of oil a day that will soon move through the ground under our feet. I remind other marchers that, despite the imminent flow of oil, if the lawsuit by nine Iowa landowners prevails, it could require that the pipe be removed, forcing Dakota Access to attempt a lengthy and complicated reroute.

Reasnor is a town of 153 people, and everyone we meet is friendly and helpful. The Methodist Church, with a congregation of eight parishioners, opens its doors to us for food and lodging. After dinner, some of us wander down to the D & T Tap, where Zach Ide, Heather Pearson and I break out our guitars. I play The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) and solicit a rousing response from the locals. Perhaps they appreciate the challenge of walking a long distance for an urgent cause. Perhaps I’m just making that up.

But one thing I know for certain: This march is connecting us in ways that we — marchers and locals alike — rarely experience. It’s easy to stay in one’s own social, cultural and online bubble. This march pushes us beyond that bubble and out of our comfort zone. It pushes us to confront the truth that their is no us vs. them. There is only we.

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Toilet paper provided; bring your own towel

Dear Friends,

Q: What’s more challenging than marching ten miles a day for eight days?

A: Organizing the logistics to make such a march possible.

Seriously. Shari Hrdina, Sarah Spain and I have done this before, organizing the coast-to-coast Great March for Climate Action in 2014. Did we learn our lesson? Apparently not. Here we are again, organizing the Climate Justice Unity March reminded on a daily basis just how complex are the logistics of a march of 25 people.

One example: Check out these pictures of our Enviro-Commode/Solar Shower trailer, designed and built by Sean Spain. It would take an hour to tell you just how much planning and work went into putting this beaut together. The best way to get a feel for it is to come use it next week. Toilet paper provided; bring your own towel.

When you figure out the route, find campsites and venues, recruit speakers, contact the press, plan meals and pull together a host of other details, organizing this event is a gargantuan undertaking.

But it’s been worth it. In terms of human and planetary history, we are at a life-and-death moment. Policies being legislated at both the state and federal level will do great harm to our water, land and climate — and those policies will hit low-income communities and poor nations hardest of all.

So we march, talk, listen and break bread with friends and strangers. We bring together people from Iowa’s urban centers with residents of small towns to share food, music and conversation about climate change and related issues.

There’s so much division in America since the last election. But it’s my belief that whether you voted for Trump, Clinton, someone else, or not at all, we all have so much in common. And whether one thinks climate change is caused by humans or is cyclical, there’s a growing consensus that it’s happening and that we need to take action.

Yet little progress will be made if we don’t respect each other and talk about climate change with civility. There’s no better way to jump-start that conversation than with food and music . . . and of course, walking — for those who are up to that part.

So, come join us  . . . to march, for the evening program, to try out the commodes, or just to meet the hardy marchers trekking the highway from Millersburg to Des Moines. Check out our Wish List and see if there’s anything we still need that you might have.

Especially, come rally with us and hundreds more on the west steps of the Iowa State Capitol at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the People’s Climate March Iowa.

A lot of effort by a lot of people has gone into bringing the Climate Justice Unity March to fruition. I’d especially like to thank Heather Pearson, who’s been an energetic addition to our core organizing squad. Heather plans to march six days next week. She takes a break to travel to Calhoun County to stand trial for her non-violent action against the pipeline last fall. Please join her at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26 in Rockwell City, Iowa. Click here for further details.

Thanks!
Ed

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Stepping Forward for Climate Unity

Dear Friends,

As we build to the big rally on April 29, I am all kinds of excited about the upcoming Climate Justice Unity March! We have 20 people planning to march each day, and if you’d like to participate for one day, or the entire week, there’s still time to sign up. Click here to sign up.

Within the past 24 hours, I’ve spoken with mayors of two of the small towns we will stay in. What they are most excited about is the opportunity for dialogue, as they agree emphatically that the level of political acrimony in our country today is beyond anything we’ve ever seen. So, the evening forum / dinner / music gathering will be just as important as the daily march.

Here’s the press release we sent out today.  The original release can be found here on the Bold Iowa website. Please share with others, and contact me if you have any questions or need information.

And yes, WE ARE LOOKING FOR DONATIONS! Email me at ed@fallonforum.com if you’re able to help.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2017
Contact: Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa: 515-238-6404, ed@boldiowa.org

Iowans to Embark on Eight-Day, Eighty-Mile March for Unity on Climate
Twenty-five marchers of diverse backgrounds to depart from Little Creek Camp on Earth Day (April 22), arrive in Des Moines on April 29 for People’s Climate Rally at State Capitol

Des Moines — A group of Iowans of diverse backgrounds will embark on an eight-day, eighty-mile Climate Justice Unity March later this month to help build a broader coalition organizing for action on climate, environmental and racial justice, and clean energy jobs — and build momentum leading up to the People’s Climate Movement Rally at the State Capitol in Des Moines on April 29.

WHAT: Climate Justice Unity March: 80 miles, 8 days
WHO: Bold Iowa and allies representing Native, African American, Latino and farming communities
WHEN: Saturday, April 22 at 9:00 a.m. through Saturday, April 29 at 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Little Creek Camp (Millersburg) to Iowa State Capitol (Des Moines)
DETAILS: http://boldiowa.org/2017/03/09/climate-justice-unity-march

“The Climate Justice Unity March provides a unique opportunity to bring these voices together through the dignified, disciplined commitment of marching, and through non-confrontational gatherings each evening that will build momentum for the April 29 People’s Climate Movement Rally at the Capitol and forge new relationships essential to the work we must do going forward,” said Bold Iowa director Ed Fallon.

“The evening community gatherings will be as important as the daily marches,” added Fallon. “As we work to build the strongest possible alliance to push back against the failed policies of status quo politicians at both the state and federal level, it’s essential that we take time to listen to each other and embrace our common ground and destiny.”

“Little Creek Camp is an embodiment of the change that needs to happen at all social and environmental levels,” said Christine Nobiss, a Plains Cree woman from Iowa City and founder of the camp and Indigenous Iowa. “So it’s fitting that the Climate Justice Unity March starts here and ends at the State Capitol, where so many important decisions are made.”

“Foul air, polluted water, diminished natural resources, rising temperatures, injustice – these things have dire consequences – directly or indirectly, to every living being on Earth,” said Cynthia Hunafa, Chief Operations Officer for Creative Visions, an organization in Des Moines’ central city that provides services to economically vulnerable communities. “This, of course, is regardless of nationality, gender, ethnicity, religion, economic status, political ideologies, or any other human-made divisive barrier.”

Climate Justice Unity March Route

  • Saturday, April 22: Little Creek Camp (near Millersburg) to Deep River (12 miles)
  • Sunday, April 23: Deep River to Montezuma (8.5 miles)
  • Monday, April 24: Montezuma to Searsboro (10 miles)
  • Tuesday, April 25: Searsboro to Sully (8.5 miles)
  • Wednesday, April 26: Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)
  • Thursday, April 27: Reasnor to Prairie City (12.2 miles)
  • Friday, April 28: Prairie City to Pleasant Hill (14 miles)
  • Saturday, April 29: Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines (6 miles)

Organizational partners for the Climate Justice Unity March
Bold Iowa
Indigenous Iowa
Sage Sisters of Solidarity
League of United American Citizens (LULAC) Iowa
Creative Visions
Iowa Farmers Union
La Reina KDLF 1260 AM
Hola Iowa
Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility
Great March for Climate Action

# # #

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Climate Justice Unity March

Dear Friends,

To build momentum for the People’s Climate Movement, Bold Iowa and its partners are organizing an eight-day, 80-mile Climate Justice Unity March. Marchers will set out from Indigenous Iowa’s Little Creek Camp near Millersburg on April 22 and arrive at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines at 1:00 p.m. on April 29 for a huge rally.

The People’s Climate Movement is gaining momentum for a landmark day of action on April 29, marking the 100th day of the Trump Presidency. The major event is in Washington, DC — a march for climate, justice and jobs. Hundreds of sister marches, rallies and events are planned in cities across the U.S. and around the globe.

In Iowa, the People’s Climate Movement will rally at the Iowa State Capitol from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. A broad coalition of groups is working to make this rally a statewide event involving thousands of Iowans concerned about a broad range of issues.

The organizations partnering with Bold Iowa for the Climate Justice Unity March include:

Indigenous Iowa
Sage Sisters of Solidarity
League of United Latin American Citizens (Council 307)
Creative Visions
Iowa Farmers Union
La Reina KDLF 1260 AM
Hola Iowa
Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility
Great March for Climate Action

Here’s the route, overnight stops and approximate mileage:
Saturday, April 22: Little Creek Camp to Deep River (12 miles)
Sunday, April 23: Deep River to Montezuma (8 miles)
Monday, April 24: Montezuma to Searsboro (10 miles)
Tuesday, April 25: Searsboro to Sully (8 miles)
Wednesday, April 26: Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)
Thursday, April 27: Reasnor to Prairie City (12 miles)
Friday, April 28: Prairie City to Pleasant Hill (12 miles)
Saturday, April 29: Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol (8 miles)

The evening forum and potluck is as important as marching. As we work to build the strongest possible alliance to push-back against the failed policies of status-quo politicians at both the state and federal level, it’s essential that we take time to listen to each other and embrace our common ground and destiny.

The Climate Justice Unity March provides a unique opportunity to bring these voices together through the dignified, disciplined commitment of marching, and through non-confrontational gatherings each evening that will build momentum for April 29 and forge new relationships essential to the work we must do going forward.

Sign up here to join the march for the entire eight days, or even for a day: https://goo.gl/forms/r638T4XCIEoqfCDY2

Thanks! For further details, contact me at ed@boldiowa.org.

Ed Fallon

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