GIF courtesy of Nikolas Bentel
The Dakota Access pipeline protests have been ongoing and intensifying since April. Since the start, various indigenous tribes and people across the US and further have joined the fight to oppose a multibillion dollar project that aims to see a pipeline carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois. It will run under a lake that the Standing Rock Sioux use as a source of drinking water, meaning any potential leaks will contaminate it.
At the symbolic center in Standing Rock, protesters aiming to halt construction continue to clash with police. Meanwhile the CEO of Dakota Access, the firm behind the pipeline who believe it will bring jobs and is a safer way to transport oil then rail, has maintained that it will be built and has now gone to a federal court to get a final permit so it can be completed.
Amongst all this, New York "social designer" Nikolas Bentel has released a new project involving mirrored protest signs that Bentel says "are expressly designed to prevent police from hurting protestors by using the effects of a mirror." Bentel wants to give away these signs to as many protesters as possible and also show them how to make them in the face of what appears to be increasing violence against the protesters.
"The violence and violation of human rights has escalated a lot faster than it has been up until this point," Tia Blaise-Billie, a protester and member of Florida's Seminole tribe, tells The Creators Project. "Not only are organized forces such as the DAPL employed security and law enforcement increasing their violence against peaceful water protectors on the front lines, but escalated violence against unarmed protectors is being seen from other law enforcement as well. Just recently [November 17] at a nonviolent demonstration in downtown Bismarck, riot police beat and dislocated the shoulder of veteran Charles Jordan for having picked a flower. Even in the hours following [this], interview news of disturbing disregard for the humanity and rights of our protectors surfaced. There has been raiding and vandalization of personal property from camp, as well as vehicular aggression and brandishing of lethal weapons against unarmed and nonviolent groups on multiple occasions. Not only are organized forces such as the DAPL employed security and law enforcement increasing brutality against peaceful water protectors on the front lines, but there's been escalated violence against unarmed protectors in other cities as well."
Image courtesy of Nikolas Bentel
Bentel explains in a video about the project (below), which also features Blaise-Billie, that he took inspiration for the idea from the story of Archimedes who repelled Roman warships in the siege of Syracuse in 212 BC by getting soldiers to hold up their reflective shields, setting the Roman ships ablaze. Bentel doesn't want to start fires but instead wants to use the mirrored signs as a disruptive technique.
The signs, along with having slogans written on them, will focus and aim light. This means that opposing police will not only see themselves reflected in them—possibly causing them to pause in their actions—but they will also work as distractions and as protection, creating lens flare, as the light bounces off. Bentel also believes they could be used to send non-electronic messages, heliograph-style, across the plains.
"These protest signs are not weapons. They are means of expressing concerns and communicating ideas," Bentel explains. "The signs I hope will assist protesters in drawing the attention of the police away from their efforts to push you aside."
Watch the video below to learn more about the project.
Anti-DAPL protestors can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a sign, give an address, and tell him what they want it to say. Bentel says he will make as many as he can until his funds run out. "If people would like to make their own mirrors it is simple." Bentel explained to The Creators Project. "All you need is a piece of acrylic, spray paint, and chalk marker. It will cost the protestor about $20 if purchased from cheap stores. And if purchased in bulk it costs quite a bit less. You apply the spray paint to one side of the plexiglass and the chalk marker with your statement on the other side."
Visit Nikolas Bentel's website here to learn more about his work.