Today, I had to do something in defense of the brave people in North Dakota defending every American’s right to get together and speak up.

Using this link from YES! magazine, I began making phone calls. The comprehensive list of agencies with some say over the use of militarized force and violent tactics at Standing Rock was better than most. The phone rang when I dialed these numbers, and I was able to leave a few messages. But, it was a Saturday, and many voicemails were clogged full already, not accepting messages until Monday, or not designed to accept public input.

Besides, I’ve always understood that letters (not the cookie-cutter kind, but the personally written ones) are worth more weight with decision makers, because if someone took the time and effort to write their own letter, the issue is clearly important to them.

So I sat down, wrote the following, and spent the past several hours addressing and readdressing it to the recipients on the list, then e-mailing it or entering it into online feedback submission forms. This process has not been quick or easy, but has been a cinch compared to suffering hypothermia from water cannons in extreme winter conditions, internal injury from rubber bullets, teargas and pepper spray, dog attacks and other repressive tactics.

I can’t decide what’s worse: the fact that our country is unapologetically attacking peaceful people for exercising their First Amendment rights, or the fact that we give white people a pass for this type of civil disobedience while turning our backs on or even harassing Native American people for showing the same proactive love for country.

One concerned citizen rightly wrote on Instagram recently: “Reminder that DAPL was re-routed through Standing Rock because Bismarck’s residents feared it could poison their drinking water. The Sioux are literally being forced at gunpoint to accept ecological risks that North Dakota’s white residents refused.”

If you’re – like I have been – feeling powerless and stuck, start calling or writing or both (add your own contact information at the bottom)…it will take all of us to weight the scales for justice in the face of such grave abuses of power and resources.

DO SOMETHING! After the agencies and lawmakers, start on the banks invested in this pipeline.

Here’s the text of the letter I wrote. Take it, make it your own, and send it.

Morton County Sheriff’s Office, 205 1st Ave NW, Mandan, ND 58554

December 3, 2016

Dear Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier:

I am writing to appeal to your sense of human decency and ask you to do everything in your power to halt the use of inhumane, violent and unconstitutional tactics to suppress free assembly and speech by water protectors at the Standing Rock camps in North Dakota.

Please, bring all your resources to bear to right this wrong. Please, help prevent a 21st Century atrocity. Please protect the proud American traditions of First Amendment freedoms, honoring and supporting First Peoples, and protecting the water we all depend on to live and sustain our families and towns across this great nation.

The use of militarized force, government resources, denied access to emergency and medical services, media suppression and infiltration to shut down people exercising the most fundamental rights guaranteed to American citizens is unjust, morally reprehensible and completely unacceptable. It is even more shameful because it shows that we are still, in 2016, asking Native people to bear the social, economic, and environmental burden of our actions while we won’t treat them like people.

The use of water cannons in extreme winter conditions, close-range use of rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, dogs, military equipment and weapons, barbed fencing police raids, blockades, eviction notices, media gag-orders and blackouts, surveillance, and “free-speech zones” are inexcusable, and they represent grave civil and human rights violations. Further, use of these tactics is un-American.

The people there in Standing Rock standing up for the rest of us should be protected, not attacked. If there is any illegal action here, it is the use of violence against peaceful people. Please do something. Please do the right thing. Please investigate and speak up. Please call on others to do the right thing. Please refuse to participate in the brutal treatment of the water protectors gathered there. Please send and defend human rights monitors. Who do you have to answer to, at the end of the day? Yourself? Your God? Your children? Your neighbors and fellow American citizens? How can you explain initiating this aggression or sitting on your hands through this injustice? That could just as easily be any of us speaking up and standing up for what we believe in.

Please get in touch to discuss what you are doing about this situation.

Thank you.

Erica Terence