Senator and former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined a Washington, D.C. protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline on September 13, while halfway across the country, more than two dozen people were arrested near Mandan, North Dakota, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“If there is one profound lesson that the Native American people have taught us, it is that all of us as human beings are part of nature,” Sanders said to a 500-strong crowd in front of the White House. “Our species will not survive if we continue to destroy nature, so today we stand united in saying, ‘Stop the pipeline, respect Native American rights, and let us move forward to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels.’ ”
“Stand With Standing Rock” has become a hashtag and rallying cry for thousands around the world, who posed a Day of Action on Tuesday in support of the water protectors camped out near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation along the Missouri and Cannonball rivers. On September 14, more water protectors locked down on equipment as construction continued outside the 20-mile area that the federal government had requested the company halt while it reexamined the permitting process.
Other politicians have come out against the pipeline as well, citing Native rights and environmental implications of continuing to extract oil in the face of climate change.
“As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil,” Sanders said. “I join with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline.”
Early on, CNN commentator and former White House environmental advisor Van Jones was posting about the pipeline on Facebook, with a video statement. He also attended the rally that Sanders did, chronicling those events via Facebook as well.
“Proud to stand with the Lakota people in the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline,” he wrote alongside photos of himself speaking at the rally.
Meanwhile, on September 13, protectors chained themselves to heavy equipment at two construction sites. A statement from the Red Warrior Camp said that water protectors had locked themselves to equipment at about 10:30 a.m., with one of them locked onto the machine for nearly seven hours. Several people were arrested, and one protector at a second site was pepper-sprayed, the camp said.
“Law enforcement began to arrive within the hour, followed by a large bus load of police dressed in full riot gear,” Red Warrior Camp said in a statement. “An initial police line was formed with officers toting pellet guns. Filing in behind them was a second line of officers pointing large semi-automatic rifles at the water protectors.”
The protectors were warned they would be arrested, and 22 had been pulled in by 4 p.m., the camp said, most of them charged with the Class B misdemeanor of criminal trespass. Those chained to equipment also were charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a government function, according to Red Warrior. In total, 28 were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bismarck Tribune reported. They had bond hearings on Wednesday afternoon.
None of this has deterred Energy Transfer Partners.
“We are committed to completing construction and safely operating the Dakota Access Pipeline within the confines of the law,” said Energy Transfer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kelcy Warren in a letter to employees on September 13. “We intend to meet with officials in Washington to understand their position and reiterate our commitment to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline into operation.”
Further, the company said, it has obtained all rights of way, permits and certificates in the four states it crosses—North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Iowa.
“Nearly the entire Dakota Access pipeline route is across private land,” Warren said. “In addition, neither the land abutting nor Lake Oahe itself is subject to Native American control or ownership.”
The company insists that the pipeline is safe and in fact parallels a gas line and other infrastructure already in place.
“Concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded,” Warren’s letter said. “Multiple pipelines, railways, and highways cross the Missouri River today, carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil.”
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II was equally firm about finding a legal solution, while repeating that Dakota Access had already plowed through areas sacred to the tribe.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will continue to explore all legal, legislative and administrative options to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” he said in a statement in response to Warren’s letter. “The pipeline has already led to the destruction of our sacred sites.”
He also made clear the differences in outlook between the tribe and its allies, and the company.
“It is unfortunate that the corporate world chooses to ignore the millions of people and hundreds of tribal nations who stand in opposition to the destruction of our lands, resources, waters and sacred sites,” Archambault said. “Energy Transfer Partners has proven time and time again that the bottom line for them is money. The bottom line for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is and always will be protecting our lands, people, water and sacred sites from the devastation of this pipeline. Our fight isn’t over until there is permanent protection of our people and resources from the pipeline.”