Mirrored signs could protect protesters taking a stand against Dakota Access Pipeline (Video)


Video screen capture Nikolas Bentel

Since spring this year, thousands of people have been making their way to North Dakota to support the protests against the 1,134-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, which, if completed, will run dangerously close to a major water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and potentially threaten other major watersheds in the four states it will run through, as well as desecrating sites sacred to local indigenous peoples.

So far, the response from government authorities has been documented as brutal and excessive: dogs, pepper spray, tasers, water cannons, rubber bullets and concussion grenades injuring hundreds of unarmed people, as well as some children.

In following with the relatively peaceful spirit of resistance demonstrated by these “Water Protectors”, New York-based designer Nikolas Bentel is proposing a simple, protective device: a mirrored poster with a message. Watch it being explained:

Bentel says:

Protesters have few items at their disposal against an armed force, one of which is a poster. A poster is a way to simply convey a message. I created a set of mirrored posters [which] contract, focus and aim lights.

© Nikolas Bentel

According to Bentel, the mirrored poster with its message will allow an onlooker to literally become reflected in the poster’s message, creating a cognitive consonance of sorts that helps to bridge the gap between ‘protestor’ and ‘police’, between ‘self’ and the ‘other’. The posters’ reflective surfaces could also flash light in different directions, creating a visual distraction that could thwart the aim of a harmful weapon, or be used to communicate signals across the land and between protestors, without the use of electronics. Mirrors have apparently been used in a similar vein in protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Ukraine.

Bentel says that the project was inspired by a story about the Greek inventor Archimedes, who during a siege instructed the defending soliders to brandish mirrors, refocusing sunlight to set the attacking ships on fire. As Bentel tells Motherboard:

The story of Archimedes is there to provide a good historical backbone to the mirror’s use. It is a way to compare a bigger armed opposition (Romans = Police) attacking a smaller unarmed force (Syracusans = The Water Protectors). It shows that this type of conflict has been happening since the time of eh Greeks and that the lesser armed force ultimately can in fact triumph.

© Nikolas Bentel

​It won’t be an easy fight, as the North Dakota governor has recently ordered an evacuation of Standing Rock camp, officially because winter is creeping in. But activists believe it’s a "menacing action" that is actually intended to cut demonstrators off from emergency medical services. Meanwhile, rallies in support of the anti-pipeline efforts recently popped up in hundreds of cities. Things are further complicated on the political scene as it’s reported that President-elect Donald Trump has some money invested in the company behind the pipeline.

In support of the movement, Bentel’s intention is to inscribe mirrors with sayings from protesters themselves. He is hoping to send these posters out to anti-pipeline protests nationwide. For suggestions on what to write, or if you want to bring some posters to North Dakota yourself, please contact Nikolas Bentel at info [at] nikolasbentelstudio [dot] com. For more information, check out the Twitter hashtag #NoDAPL, Stand With Standing Rock and Nikolas Bentel.

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