Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 2, 2011

Arrests underway at Salt River Project Phoenix protest lockdown

Navajo Louise Benally, speaking on livestream in Arizona, at the
same time Obama spoke began speaking on livestream in DC.
Ofelia Rivas, O'odham founder of O'odham VOICE
against the Wall. At SRP protest.
Navajo speaks about the cancers being caused
from the coal mining and power plants that
SRP is part of in Arizona energy production.
Protesters supporting Native Americans fighting energy
companies locked down at SRP in Tempe, Arizona
on Friday afternoon.
Native Americans and supporters protested today at the Salt River Project in Phoenix, as protests continue at the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, meeting in Scottsdale in the Phoenix Valley. Fifteen unconfirmed arrests so far. Five were locked down and arrested on Friday at afternoon.
Native Americans protest Salt River Project in Tempe, Arizona

By Brenda Norrell
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Native Americans and supporters protested at the Salt River Project protest in Tempe, Arizona, where supporters of Native Americans locked down in the lobby. There were 15 unconfirmed arrests Friday afternoon.
Louise Benally, Navajo resisting relocation at Big Mountain, spoke live on the web, upstaging Obama in DC who was addressing the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Interior Building.
Obama's rhetoric was a shadow compared to the power of Benally's words at the protest in Arizona, on the devastation from SRP's coal fired power plant.
“We have no water in our community. The wells are drying up, the water wells, the water table is dropping, a lot of pollution is being released into the ground water. There are lands that are cracking open, which has never happened before. Vegetation is being totally poisoned by sulfur dioxide from the blasting."
SRP is the operator of the coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation at Page, Ariz., the Navajo Generating Station. It provides electric customers in Arizona, Nevada and California and supplies energy to pump water through the Central Arizona Project. Meanwhile, Navajos live with the sickness and disease from the pollution, many without running water and electricity.
Benally spoke on how SRP is part of the ongoing devastation of coal mining on Black Mesa.
“We’re trying to educate them and let them know what they are doing, what they are practicing on Black Mesa is impacting our communities.
“We have a lot of health issues that are not being addressed.”
Benally said coal is being sold at very cheap prices, prices of the 1960s, to energy companies. Navajos want an end to the cheap prices and the conversion to renewable energy to begin.
“Fossil fuel development is near its end."
Benally said the decades of coal mining on Black Mesa has left Navajos sick with widespread health problems.
“I have asthma. I have a lot of health issues. Ninety-five percent of the people in my community have health problems. Children are born with problems. People are developing all kinds of diseases that were not there before the coal mining started."
She said coal mining and power plants are releasing a lot of pollution, including arsenic and mercury. It is being released daily -- 24 hours a day and seven days a week -- and energy companies are not addressing the problems.
Benally said SRP official accepted a letter from the community, but there was no way to know if SRP would follow through on action.
Inside, she said supporters of Native Americans were locked down to get their message across.
She said the issues on Black Mesa are global climate issues. SRP and other energy companies are ignoring EPA, clean water and clean air regulations.
“We came here to let them know we are not blind. We will continue to pressure them. Their greed is impacting our community at a big level."
Coal mining and power plants are draining the local aquifer and the Colorado River water is being diverted.
“Our waters are being diverted to Phoenix, Tucson and other Southwest communities.
“We have no water in our community. The wells are drying up, the water wells, the water table is dropping, a lot of pollution is being released into the ground water. There are lands that are cracking open, which has never happened before. Vegetation is being totally poisoned by sulfur dioxide from the blasting."
"A lot of people have been relocated and displaced because of Peabody Coal, SRP and Navajo Generating Station."
“They need to come to the community members and sit down and talk with us directly
without the tribal government making decisions over us , because we don’t vote for them. They are entities of the federal government."
Ofelia Rivas, founder of O'odham VOICE against the Wall, is at the protest. Rivas speaks out against the abuse by US Border Patrol of O'odham, the desecration of O'odham burials by Boeing in construction of the border wall and the ongoing militarization of O'odham lands by Homeland Security.
The protest of SRP is part of the four days of protests against ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, meeting in Scottsdale in the Phoenix Valley. O'odham and others were pepper sprayed on Wednesday as part of the action to shut down ALEC. Tohono O'odham Veteran David Ortega was hospitalized with after being pepper-sprayed.
Native American protesters wore black today in solidarity with those pepper sprayed and arrested, and in response to the bias in the media coverage of the protests.
Sourcewatch says:
ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) They fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. It might be right. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door. Learn more at

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