River Network Statement on Recent Attacks on Democracy

Monday, January 11, 2021 — Democracy is fundamental to our efforts to deliver safe, clean, affordable water and healthy rivers to people and nature. We rely on our elected officials to represent the will of the people, to make decisions with the health and welfare of the public in mind, and ground their actions in what is best for our nation as a whole. This has not been the case over the last four years as the outgoing administration has prioritized polluters over people and sidelined the use of science.

Last week’s attack on our democratic institutions and processes, the looting of the halls of Congress,  trespassing into offices of those we elect to serve, and the physical harm to so many people left us in shock. Responsibility for this great harm falls directly on those elected officials who enabled this by challenging the peaceful transition of power, asserting election fraud when there was none, and inciting violence and anarchy. The half-hearted response by law enforcement that so blatantly diverges from the mostly violent response to racial justice demonstrations last year is unacceptable and is an example of how systemic racism operates in our country.

As an organization, we work to support people taking a stand for clean water and healthy rivers, for access to places to recreate and find solace, and protect those disproportionately harmed by floods, water shutoffs, and pollution. Our network – now 6,700 entities and tens of thousands of individual water protectors – work from coast to coast for clean water and healthy rivers, engaging with elected officials from both sides of the aisle do more for nature and people. For those elected officials involved in challenging our election results without basis, you have broken our trust and the trust of the American people.

During 2020, we experienced catastrophic and historic floods, fires, water failures, civil unrest, racial injustice, the COVID-19 health crisis, and economic hardship. What we experienced last week as a nation was the culmination of events and language predicated on White Supremacy. The last year has been a very dark time for so many of us, and the repercussions have again been felt most strongly by our Black, brown, and Indigenous colleagues.

We must do better.

We need confidence in our institutions and government itself. We must insist on elected officials of the highest moral character and hold responsible those accountable for the damage we have witnessed. We stand for a future where we rebuild our democracy together, community by community, with no one left behind. This future will be one where water and rivers connect us too, uniting rather than dividing us.