Pepsi received a lot of slack last week for a commercial that critics argued appropriated protest imagery.
In the ad, reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner hands a law enforcement officer a can of the company’s signature drink, which seemingly makes him positive towards the struggle.
Supporters of the showdown in Standing Rock, which raised an opposition to the now-complete Dakota Access Pipeline, were one of the groups left unamused by the Pepsi commercial. Last year, protestors who call themselves “water protectors” allege that law enforcement used excessive force against them, which has been corroborated by several video accounts, some of which can be seen in this video.
The “fixed” Pepsi ad published on April 6 by social justice film group thirtyrev doesn’t shy away from showing what water protectors saw at the hands of police: the use of batons, pepper spray and rubber bullets. But it also shows how Native Americans used this moment to really display their culture through dance, drums and ceremony.
The first violent incident at Standing Rock to make major headlines was on September 3, when private security agents from pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners pepper sprayed and unleashed large dogs on water protectors. From there, their confrontations grew more heated with Morton County police constantly arriving in riot gear and conducting mass arrests during sacred ceremonies water protectors would do in protest of the pipeline.
One of the worst nights water protectors experienced against police was on November 20. Militarized police allegedly used tear gas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and water cannons on water protectors in below-freezing temperatures. Environmental activist Sophia Wilansky nearly lost her arm during this event when a concussion grenade reportedly exploded near her.
Water protector Vanessa Dundon, a member of the Navajo Nation, also suffered an injury earlier that night after a tear gas cannon allegedly came shooting straight for her face. It hit her right eye, and doctors have told her that the damage inflicted would likely affect her eyesight for the rest of her life.
Given all this, water protectors were disappointed in Pepsi’s depiction of police interaction with protestors. Linda Black Elk, who was a medic with the medics and healer council at the Standing Rock camps, wrote a blunt, but telling, Facebook post:
Wait…you’re telling me that pepper spray, attack dogs, rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas, bean bag rounds, arrests, blatant racism, and getting beaten with batons could have all been avoided if I had just handed those dickheads a Pepsi?
If only I had known.
Watch the “fixed” Pepsi video above and tell us what you think in the comments on our Facebook page.