Jenni Monet: Arrested DAPL Journalist Speaks Out

Native American journalist Jenni Monet was arrested on Feb. 1 and charged with “criminal trespassing” and “engaging in a riot” by state authorities.

Monet had been embedded within the #NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock since December, and had been covering the protest closely since August. Monet was arrested while she was covering a demonstration in which protesters locked arms.

“At no point did I ever feel that I was under any kind of threat of being arrested,” Monet said in a phone interview with MediaFile. “I was very startled when I was stopped halfway down this cliff where this demonstration was taking place and I was arrested.”

Monet wasn’t the first journalist to be arrested at the Standing Rock protests. Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was also charged similarly in September. In the case of Goodman, a North Dakota judge refused to authorize her charges, but Monet’s charges have gotten much less coverage.

“Is my situation any different? No,” Monet said. “Is it any different than Amy Goodman’s? No. Except for the fact that she is Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, she’s a brand name.”

Monet has been a working journalist for 20 years, and has been covering indigenous issues for the past decade. While she feels that people of color do have a “strain of advocacy” when writing about issues within their culture or ethnicity, she does believe that there is a “fine line” between activist work and journalism.

Based on her previous experiences, she didn’t see much of a future for the Standing Rock protests – she thought that it would be a “one off story” with a “short shelf life.” But that didn’t happen.

After it became clear that the Standing Rock protestors, or “water defenders,” as they call themselves, weren’t going anywhere and had staying power – Monet decided to embed herself in the protest.

Embedding is a journalistic tool of completely immersing oneself with the people or situation they are reporting on. The term is most commonly used for journalists embedding with military units in wartime. However, Monet did so with the Standing Rock protesters for three months, an experience which she believes greatly influenced her work.

For example, her reaction to the camp clearing on Feb. 23 which resulted in at least 23 arrests and several injuries surprised her.

“I had a bizarre reaction to that, I was surprised by my reaction. I think I was in part sad and angry and just disappointed in how everything ended.”

Monet pleaded not guilty at her Feb. 22 arraignment and is currently waiting for her next hearing.

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