Standing Rock/202 Resistance Benefit in Tempe Unites Movements

On a unseasonably warm December afternoon, a line of marchers exit the Park & Ride on 99th and Glendale avenues to the pounding rhythm of a drum.

The marchers, about 60 or 70 in number, move up Glendale toward University of Phoenix Stadium, where in a few hours the Arizona Cardinals will defeat the Washington Redskins, bearing signs. One reads “Not Your Mascot," a comment on the Washington team’s name, which this group’s gathered to speak against. Another reads “Water Is Life,” the rallying cry of the Water Protectors rallying against the Dakota Access Pipeline (news that the pipeline will be rerouted will light up the timelines of the marchers mid-rally). Reaction from game attendees ranges from befuddlement to outright hostility as they crane their necks out cars and read signs from their tailgate camps.

One message sticks out in particular. Carried by two marchers in black denim it reads, “Fuck 202/Fuck #DAPL — Defend the Sacred.”

The sign was hoisted by organizers of an upcoming benefit Standing Rock/No 202 benefit scheduled for this Saturday, December 10, at 51 West and the Double Nickels Collective in Tempe. Running from 1:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., the all-day benefit features 27 bands and DJs, from the freeform turntablism of Djentrification to the electronic post-punk of Body of Light, from the hardcore of Magnum Force to the folk punk of Andy Warpigs, all assembled to recognize infringements on Native land.

In addition to traditional O’odham singers, the event will feature speeches by Not Your Mascot activist Amanda Blackhorse (one of the leaders of the stadium protest), Nicole Dechine, and Andrew Pedro.

“The [original] idea to have a benefit show was original for the 202 issue,” Pedro explains, back at the park and ride post-march, huddled with fellow organizers (all clad in black) including organizers Kevin Jose and Nick Schellbach.

The “202 issue” refers to the South Mountain Loop 202 freeway expansion, a proposed development that would intersect Moahdak Do’ag, a sacred site to the O’odham people. But as news of the Standing Rock camp began to gain national attention, Pedro and his fellow organizers wanted to show support.

“[Tribes at Standing Rock] are going through practically the same thing — a federal infrastructure project going through sacred area,” Pedro says. “We wanted to show support.”

The group says that even with the announcement that the Army will look into ways to re-route the pipeline, there's still support required. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Water Protector Legal Collective. The event also seeks to raise awareness about the resistance to the 202 expansion, as well as opposition to mining at Oak Flat and treatment of wastewater at the San Francisco Peaks, two other sacred sites in Arizona.

Jose says he expected the Phoenix music community to respond to the organizers’ calls for volunteers, but the response was surprising.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Jose says. “To see the reaction from other people to want to be part of this is very amazing.”

There are no genre restrictions, but the performs are united by DIY aesthetics and sensibilities. The lineup boasts Chicano/Native hip-hop trio Shining Soul and indigenous punk songwriter Klee Benally (whose band Blackfire collaborated with Joey Ramone on its 2001 album, One Nation Under). It also offers a rare chance to see Catharsis — a collaborative effort featuring rapper Brad B. of Drunken Immortals with MC Optimal and justchris. Jose says part of what makes the concert so exciting is its musical diversity and the way the artists individually bring multiple movements into the discussion.

“People want to be a part of this benefit for struggles that are beyond any of us,” Jose says, citing indigenous struggles, Black Lives Matter, immigration reform, and environmental racism.

“We’re very happy as individuals standing here from different cultural backgrounds collectively, doing this together," Jose says. "It’s a very powerful way of unification.”

The Benefit for Standing Rock/No 202 Resistance is scheduled to take place Saturday, December 10, at 51 West/Double Nickels Collective.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.