When Mike Tintner saw footage of security forces setting dogs on protestors he wondered, “What country is that going on in? Then I saw it was this land.”
So brutal were the assaults on Standing Rock Sioux and others fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, a protester lost the flesh from her arm. As Tintner watched he gradually realised, “This is a fight I need to be part of.”
Tintner’s time at Standing Rock helped transform him from film student and organic agriculturist into one of a generation of film makers documenting environmental activism as a call to arms.
His feature-length documentary For Your Grandchildren is anchored by direct action in the Everglades of his native Florida, 2,000 miles from Standing Rock. Here protesters gathered to oppose the Sabal Trail Pipeline, built to transport fracked gas to the central Florida hub.
Tintner told Socialist Worker that he is trying to tell the story of why people fight back. “Why take all this action against a pipeline?” the film asks.
Tintner wants to challenge the narrative of water protesters as “terrorists”. Activists are few in number, but “the more of them there are the more likely it is other people will follow. That’s how movements turn into history.”
There was generally less brutality at Sabal Trail than Standing Rock, though police killed a man who shot at the pipeline. “You didn’t see that level of brutality because of who was fighting. It was going through a white community but they were also using different tactics.” People inspired by Standing Rock marched, targeted banks and “locked on” against the Sabal Trail.
There is little trade union involvement in the movement against pipelines, Tintner said. That’s due to their “comparative weakness” and because pipelines offer temporary relief to some “people who have gone a long time without a skilled, well paid job”.
But the film’s trailer shows an ex-serviceman exposing the contradiction between being sent to “fight for other people’s land”, and the criminalisation of that fight at home. “Indigenous people are 1 percent of the US population, but 10 percent of its servicemen,” said Tintner.
That is partly why Veterans for Peace responded to Standing Rock. One of Tintner’s co-cameramen faced down the authorities in North Dakota in a bullet proof vest. His footage is in this film.
Donald Trump’s early presidential decrees accelerated the Keystone and DAPL pipelines.
Tintner sees these struggles as small parts of a global fight against giant fossil fuel corporations. “Super storms are real,” he says. “And they are getting more frequent.”
Whether people come to pipeline struggles through concern over land rights, decolonisation, water protection or climate change, Tintner thinks they have the power as local activists to be part of a global movement.
“There’s an awakening that these issues are all tied together and that government won’t solve all our problems,” he said.
“This is a call to action.”