The Water Protectors in Geneva


From 6 to 9 June, representatives of indigenous peoples from Standing Rock were in Geneva during the United Nations Human Rights Council session. The CETIM co-organized their trip and arranged for the spokespersons of the movement to speak before the Council.

The resistance of the indigenous peoples led by women and youth at Standing Rock is emblematic, mobilizing thousands of persons on the scene and throughout the Untied States for over a year.

During their European tour, the representatives of the water defenders were in Geneva. On 6 June, 30 militants entered the headquarters of Crédit Suisse in Geneva to carry out a non-violent civil disobedience action by BreakFree Geneva. They were accompanied by four representatives of the Standing Rock water protectors. Three militants chained themselves to the pillars of the bank, and banners were unfurled. The water protectors took the floor to denounce the bank’s investments. They read a letter addressed to Tidjane Thiam, Crédit Suisse director general. The bank has invested $1.4 billion in the oil pipeline and in various related projects. The objective was to ask Crédit Suisse to divest completely from the pipeline as well as from all fossil fuel projects and/or those that do not respect the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent concerning projects on their lands, projects involving the disappearance of the first nations. The police intervened to remove the militants from the building. Two of them had to give their identity to the police and will be subject to a fine.

On 7 June, the representatives of the Standing Rock indigenous peoples, supported by several dozen Genevans, demonstrated in front of the United Nations. The Genevan police promptly intervened and dispersed the group. Then a representative of the First Nations read a statement before the Human Rights Council. Among other points, Nataani Means recalled that the Standing Rock resistance movement is fighting to protect the earth, the common heritage of all humankind.

Later, the water defenders’ spokespersons also shared their experience during a parallel conference at the United Nations. In the evening, a large audience attended a water ceremony at the Bains des Pâquis, before one of the First Nation’s representatives gave a concert.

On 8 June, the delegation answered the United Nations journalists’ questions before leaving for the Place de la Fusterie, where they asked for an accounting from the Swiss banks and demanded divestment from toxic funds. In the evening, they met with the French Swiss public during a conference organized at the University of Geneva.

The resistance of the indigenous peoples of Standing Rock is an example for the whole world. Non-violent and dignified, the water defenders oppose the brutal repression of the Trump regime. For months, they have been subjected to police violence, fired on with rubber bullets, swept by water cannons, attacked by dogs. The states of North and South Dakota have passed new laws authorizing vehicles to charge the water defenders and incarcerate any individual arrested during a demonstration. These laws, as Nataani Means recalled, violate basic human rights.

The water defenders’ European tour and their stay in Geneva have enabled them to bring their struggle to the international level. The representatives of the Standing Rock demonstrators expressed their gratitude to the CETIM for its help and support.

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