Standing Rock Sioux Tribe urges global
action against DAPL
by America Arias and Bianca Graulau
Opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL) are calling for protests around the world on the same day the Army approved the final stage of the $3.8 billion project's construction. The Army says it will cancel further study and allow the controversial pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has urged supporters to participate in demonstrations dubbed as the last stand. Several protests took place in major U.S. cities like Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Tribal elders are vowing to fight the Army’s decision in court.
The Army's decision comes weeks after President Donald Trump rolled back a key victory for activists and water protectors fighting against the pipeline construction. Last month, he signed executive orders that cleared the way for the controversial Keystone XL and DAPL to be completed under planned routes rejected by former President Barack Obama’s administration.
The decision was greeted with a swift response from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leaders, who have been suing since last July to try to stop the pipeline.
Water protectors braved below zero temperatures in December while camping in opposition to DAPL.
"Trump’s executive order on DAPL not only violates the law, but it violates tribal treaties. Nothing will deter us from our fight for clean water. We will be taking legal action, and will take this fight head on,” they wrote on Facebook.
Protests over the pipeline began last August with tribe members and activists camping out by the DAPL construction site near the Standing Rock reservation.
The Native American tribe is concerned the oil pipeline, which would run from western North Dakota to Illinois, would harm sacred burial sites and contaminate drinking water if it were to leak into the Missouri river.
Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the companies behind the project, claim the pipeline is safe and have said they will complete the project despite a December 5th order to halt construction from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With support from President Obama and the Justice Department, the agency handed protesters a victory by ordering an environmental impact assessment to explore alternate routes.
Last month, President Trump said his actions are meant to reduce "regulatory burdens" and create more jobs.
“If we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipelines should be built in the United States,” Trump said during a signing broadcast on national TV. “We’re going to put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers back to work."
The move is being met with intense resistance. Water protectors say this setback confirms their fears that the triumph in December was only temporary. A group of opponents stayed at the Standing Rock camp after the announcement, saying the fight would pick back up.
But the battle over DAPL goes beyond the camp site. Activists were already involved in another courtroom fight over clashes with local police.
In a response to the civil rights complaint against them, Morton county and federal officials are now accusing pipeline protesters of making threats against officers and public officials in North Dakota. The affidavits claim the threats were so severe, the state’s governor required additional security.
Lawyers on behalf of dozens of water protectors filed the original complaint, claiming they’ve been mistreated by law enforcement and DAPL Security, and that more than 200 protesters were injured in a clash just before Thanksgiving.
Officials named in the lawsuit dispute that number. The affidavit also claims that officials used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water hoses on protesters only after demonstrators assaulted officers with rocks and logs.
But activists who were targets in the violent crackdown say that’s false.
“Police are completely lying about what happened that night. They have no video evidence even though both sides had drones flying and filming overhead,“ recounted Jake Westley Anderson, one of the hundreds of people still at the Standing Rock camp.
“What we do have evidence of is the police exploding devices into the crowd,” he said about witnessing women and elderly tribal members being attacked while they knelt in prayer.
The plaintiffs in the case include Sofia Wilansky, 21, who nearly lost an arm in the attack and Vanessa Dundon, 32, who nearly lost her vision in one eye.
The Morton County Sheriff, the County Commissioner, and the state’s Federal Bureau of Intelligence have filed another affidavit requesting to have law officers' names redacted from public court documents for safety. They claim numerous death threats were made through social media, letters and phone messages against law enforcement officers, pipeline supporters, and the former North Dakota governor.
It’s unclear whether the accused activists will be returning to camp to fight the White House’s decision, but many, like Anderson, say they’re heading back.
“Looks like there will be trouble there,” he said.