Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Intensify

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Tensions Rise over Dakota Access Pipeline

 

Twenty degree weather chilled Dakotan protesters and a fierce wind whipped through the air. However, these conditions did not stop North Dakota law enforcement, who used water cannons in efforts to break up throngs of passionate protesters. Thousands of angry citizens have gathered to take a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is three and a half billion energy behemoth that would cross four states and change the entire nation’s oil supply. Originally approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the pipeline has become the topic of much controversy.

Those who protest the pipeline, namely the Sioux and Meskwaki tribes, argue that the construction will hurt the environment as well as interrupt sites of historic and cultural significance. The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL for short, have steadily increased for the past six months and are approaching a turning point.

Native Americans have raised their adamant concerns against the intrusive heap of metal that would run through several sites of historical, religious, and funerary importance, not to mention clean drinking water for thousands. While the protests against the DAPL may seem unimpressive, they are actually the opposite. The DAPL has drawn the attention of indigenous peoples from all over North America, making this the largest gathering of Native Americans in the past hundred years.

Last April, a Sioux elder at Standing Rock established a center for cultural preservation and personal resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since then, several different Native American groups and coalition have gotten involved, like ReZpect Our Water, a Native American youth group.

ReZpect Our Water is dedicated to preventing the pollution of the Missouri River, the primary water source for Sioux tribe at Standing Rock. Standing Rock has also made its way into the mainstream media, taking the form of thousands of Facebook posts. Proponents of the protests “checked into” Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Facebook, showing their support even if they couldn’t be there in person.

As of late, the expected peaceful atmosphere at Standing Rock has turned into a more sinister one. While protests have remained majorly non-violent, the official response has been less tolerant.  Beginning in September, security for the pipeline and government officials alike have used excessive force against many of the protesters. Early September marked the use of attack dogs against protesters, whose bites injured around seven.

However, the use of excessive force did not stop in September. Just before Thanksgiving, law enforcement officials made use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to thwart Standing Rock protesters.

One group of demonstrators became trapped on a bridge just north of the actual Standing Rock reservation. Police used wave after wave of tear gas, coupled with powerful water cannons in freezing winter weather (twenty-six degrees Fahrenheit) against unarmed activists. In an official statement on Facebook, the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council stated their concerns: “As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions”. Following the onslaught of freezing water, over one hundred and sixty-seven  demonstrators were rushed to the hospital.

Unfortunately, the outrage and rejection of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been ongoing since the pipeline’s proposal in 2014, but the media coverage has been scarce to say the least. And while recent months have revealed a slight increase in publicity, the protests at Standing Rock are nowhere as publicized as they should be. In addition to the hardship and injustice the Sioux and Meskwaki people have endured, they also oppose prominent politicians ranging from Rick Perry to Donald Trump. According to his federal disclosure forms from last May, Trump holds anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the DAPL company.

[Since the writing of this article, it has come to our attention that the Army Corp of Engineers announced it will look for an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. While tribal leaders fear that this new decision may be temporary, especially under the incoming Trump administration, protesters in the minicity of Standing Rock are elated with the news. Many months of protesting and activism from all walks of life, including star studded celebrities to thousands of US veterans, demonstrate the power of peaceful protest. Standing Rock will be remembered as symbol of protest for years to come.]

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Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Intensify