The #NoDAPL call echoes across the country
SocialistWorker.org writers report on protests around the country against the Dakota Access Pipeline--and the call for the Obama administration to act before it's too late.
MANY THOUSANDS of people stood together against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on November 15 in a national day of action to demand that the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers act now to halt its construction.
The protests--in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and more than 200 cities in between--came a day after the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would delay its decision on whether to allow Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline, to build a tunnel under the Missouri River reservoir Lake Oahe.
Feeling the pressure from months of protest, the Army Corps said it planned to meet with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who argue that construction of the tar sands oil pipeline under the reservoir would contaminate the water supply and further destroy sacred sites.
If completed, the nearly $4 billion pipeline, would transport 500,000 gallons of crude oil a day from western North Dakota over more than a thousand miles through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
Since April, Indigenous water protectors and supporters have led the fight at Standing Rock in North Dakota to block construction of the pipeline, despite brutal attacks from company security and local law enforcement.
Caravans of supporters--including Indigenous people from around the world as well as students, clergy and union members--have made the journey to North Dakota to add their voices in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.
Supporters have also brought the Standing Rock struggle to their cities over recent months, organizing support through local protests, speak-outs and meetings giving eyewitness reports from North Dakota
The November 15 day of action--endorsed by dozens of organizations, including 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth--turned its focus to the Army Corps of Engineers for fast-tracking construction of the DAPL without properly investigating the damage it would do.
The fossil fuel industry has money, law enforcement and friends in high places on its side. But the Standing Rock water protectors have the solidarity of people who care about Native rights and environmental devastation on theirs. We'll have to keep up the heat and stop DAPL.
In San Francisco, more than 2,000 people met for a Sunrise Ceremony at City Hall before they marched to shut down the Army Corps of Engineers, blocking the main thoroughfare and Army Corps building for hours.
The action was organized by Idle No More SF Bay, in coalition with Diablo Rising Tide-DiRT and 350.org, and drew people from all over the Bay Area at 6:30 a.m.
The morning sunrise ceremony speaker asked that our ancestors, grandfathers and grandmothers take care of our children all over the world and especially in war-torn countries, and asked for blessings for our elders some of those who are living homeless on the streets, and the people on the front lines in North Dakota and all over the world who are protecting water and our earth.
Signs throughout the march showed the breadth of solidarity growing with the resistance of the Standing Rock water protectors. There were contingents of "Religious leaders for Standing Rock." Health care workers wearing white coats carried signs that read "The Right to Water is a Public Health Issue. #DoNoHarm," and handed out fliers for a solidarity fundraising event for delegations of health workers to Standing Rock.
Chanting rang through the streets, including "We can't drink oil. Keep it in the soil!" and hundreds of beautiful screen-printed signs sent the message, "We are here to protect. Water is life."
Native leaders described the level of solidarity and unity on the ground at Standing Rock where "we are all relatives," they said. Speakers drew the connection between reservations, where DAPL threatens to poison Sioux (Lakota) land and water, just like uranium and coal mining for the Navajo Nation and copper mining for the Apache Nation.
A protester named Chapene drew connections between this protest and other struggles ahead during a Trump presidency:
I'm here because I oppose this pipeline and all pipelines, but also because in these times, silence equals death, especially if we don't stand up now. There is so much going on. It's not just about the water. It's about people's rights and oppression. I'm here to put down my grain of sand.
Other actions took place across the Bay Area on November 15. Students organized a protest in solidarity with Standing Rock at San Jose State University, an action took place at a Wells Fargo Bank in Mountain View, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting a moratorium on building DAPL.
In New York City, about 2,000 people gathered at Manhattan's Foley Square next to City Hall to demand the immediate shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The event was organized by a coalition of groups, including a local affiliate of 350.org and the NYC Stands with Standing Rock Collective, and co-sponsored by dozens of others.
An array of student groups, community and political organizations and individuals rallied. A college student pointed out that the climate is being destroyed and Native Americans are at the vanguard of the resistance. "We have to support them with everything we've got," he explained.
Speakers included Tara Houska, national campaign director of Honor the Earth; Roberto Mukaro Borrero of the United Confederation of Taino People; and Crystal Migwans of NYC Stands with Standing Rock.
The crowd also heard from public school teacher and unionist Alexandra Simmons, representing Labor for Standing Rock, who made a case for building support among workers for the fight against the pipeline. "Labor rights are not separable from Indigenous rights," she argued. "We need jobs that protect the earth. There are no jobs on a dead planet."
Performers offered a song tying today's resistance to the future well-being of humanity:
The people gonna rise like water
We're gonna face this crisis now
I hear the voices of my great-granddaughters
Saying shut this pipeline down.
The whole square became a chorus, using the Occupy-era "people's mic."
Later in the evening, 40 activists left the square to stage a sit-in, blocking traffic on Lafayette Street. A phalanx of cops descended on them and began playing automated warning messages through their loudspeakers.
The crowd chanted, "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?" and "Water is life! Water is life!" The police's computer-voice charged the protesters with disorderly conduct before officers swooped in to make arrests.
The sentiment in the crowd was clear: What's disorderly is building oil pipelines, not sitting in against them. Protesters marched to the NYPD headquarters to support the activists taken into custody.
In Washington, D.C., activists sat in at Army Corps of Engineers headquarters. First Nations women from the Standing Rock protest encampment addressed the crowd of over 2,000 people, appealing to the Army Corps to revoke permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed the protesters at the rally, asking President Obama to "stop this pipeline any way you can. Declare Standing Rock a national monument."
In Portland, Oregon, some 2,000 people protested at the Portland District Army Corps of Engineers, some traveling from other parts of the state to attend. One person said she was from Coos Bay, which is three hours away.
Before marching to the larger protest, Portland State University students gathered on campus for a speak-out of about 70 people. Speakers pointed to struggles in Palestine and Flint, Michigan and linked those struggles to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
At the main protest, which had been organized by African-Indigenous Solidarity PDX, speakers gave report backs from the camps at the pipeline.
One speaker said that the cold is setting in at Standing Rock, and helicopters fly around the protectors' camp 24 hours a day. But, she said, they are inspired by demonstration of solidarity like the one today. She ended her speech by saying, "Long live international solidarity!"
In Chicago, more than 700 people gathered at Daley Plaza to stand with Standing Rock. Many had creative signs--oil drips formed into speech bubbles, painted tapestries of Native resistance, a small contingent of children taking part as a class held signs scribbled with crayon and marker.
For many people, this was their first rally, and some were veterans of the environmental justice movement. "It's incredible to see this many people come out for Native issues, and on a workday," said Dee, a Native woman of Jemez Pueblo descent.
Protesters came out with deerskin drums, plastic homemade box drums and shakers made of plastic bottles. Several followed a long black pipeline snake with blue fabric mimicking water. Signs included "Pipelines = Poison," "People over Profits," "Power Gives Nothing Without a Demand" and "Illinois Stands with Standing Rock."
Protesters marched to the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, chanting, "You can't drink oil. Keep it in the soil!"
On the doorsteps of the headquarters, actors played out a terrified Army Corps leader and Uncle Sam being pressured by the demands of unarmed water protectors, which included a brief die-in oil spill with a long black fabric and plastic bags. In the end, the black snake was ripped apart at the seams.
Janie and Fawn Pochel (Lakota/Cree) presented the list of demands on a signed petition to an Army Corps representative. A Food and Water Watch representative demanded that the Army Corps and President Obama respect treaty rights, and urged the crowd to continue fighting.