With the federal government overruling a federal judge’s decision to continue construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Friday (September 9), it’s easy to believe opponents have won the battle. But the reality is a lot more complicated.

Activist Kelly Hayes delved into the complexities behind Friday’s turn of events on her blog, Transformative Spaces. She doesn’t call this a win. Instead Hayes writes that the federal government “gave us the illusion of victory.” She insists that the fight is ongoing; no one has won nor lost. And, as she says, it’s all in the fine print of the joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior.

As Colorlines reported Friday, the halt of construction is temporary—and voluntary. Hayes writes:

As someone who organizes against state violence, I know the patterns of pacification in times of unrest all too well. When a Black or Brown person is murdered by the police, typically without consequence, and public outrage ensues, one of the pacifications we are offered is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will investigate the shooting. It’s a de-escalation tactic on the part of the state. It helps transition away from moments when rage and despair collide, creating a cooling off period for the public. “Justice” is still possible, we are told. We are asked to be patient as this very serious matter is investigated at the highest level of government, and given all due consideration.

The reality, of course, is that the vast majority of investigations taken up by the DOJ Civil Rights Division end in dismissal—a batting average that’s pretty much inverse to that of other federal investigations. But by the time a case gets tossed at the federal level, it’s probably not front page news anymore, and any accumulated organizing momentum behind the issue may have been lost — because to many people, the mere announcement of a federal investigation means that the system is working. 

“It’s the same old con game,” Hayes writes. The energy building around the pipeline could get lost amid this temporary positive outcome. But, as she points out, that’s ultimately up to the public. Will they “erase” this ongoing struggle?

Read Hayes’ full post here.