In October 2016, as her mom live-streamed her arrest on Facebook to more than 40,000 viewers, Shailene Woodley was handcuffed and hauled off by police while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline at North Dakota’s Standing Rock reservation. Nearly a year later, Woodley, who was arrested for criminal trespassing and rioting, is opening up about the experience in an interview with Marie Claire U.K., and the details are harrowing.
Before her arrest, the 25-year-old actress recalled seeing two U.S. military tanks approach the protesters, an experience she likened to “Divergent,” the dystopian and post-apocalyptic trilogy she starred in. “This is some ‘Divergent’ shit,” Woodley said. “The only time in my life that I saw a tank like that was on set in Atlanta.”
After being handcuffed and transported to North Dakota’s Morton County Jail, Woodley revealed that she was strip-searched, frisked for drugs, and locked alone in a cell. “I was strip-searched. Like get naked, turn over, spread your butt cheeks, bend over,” Woodley said. “They were looking for drugs in my ass. When you’re in a jail cell and then shut that door. you realize no one can save you. If there’s a fire and they decide not to open the door, you’ll die. You are a caged animal.”
Since her time in jail, Woodley admits she’s struggled with psychological repercussions, including trauma and depression. “There was so much trauma,” Woodley said. “Mine was like, ‘What do I do now?’ Kind of like a little bit of depression.” However, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Woodley suggests that the ordeal has motivated her even more to stand up for Native American rights and environmental change in the United States.
“To me, the biggest shift we can make is the mindfulness around these things. That’s the catalyst for change. We must wake up every morning and ask ourselves, ‘How can I do more? How am I willing to shift my lifestyle to actually create the change I complain about?'” Woodley said. “Now, all of a sudden you’re empowered, you’re passionate, you have a fuel beneath your feet to move forward in a way that’s conducive not only for your own personal life but also for the world as well.”
While Woodley’s experience is undoubtedly jarring, it’s important to remember that she wasn’t the only person arrested for protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. The New York Times reported that there were more than 400 arrests by the end of October. Though Woodley was able to speak out on the conditions in a public forum, many protesters don’t have the same privilege, racially or financially. Still, we’re glad to see Woodley using her celebrity to shine a light on such an important and timely issue.