by Anna Gombert
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a project by Energy Transfer Partners meant to deliver oil from Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. The pipeline is projected to transport around 470,000 barrels of oil per day. While this may seem like great news for the industry, there are numerous issues surrounding pipelines. According to The Center for Biological Diversity, since 1986 there have also been over 500 deaths, 2300 injuries and up to seven billion dollars in damage connected to the construction of pipelines. These numbers do not account for any ecological damage. In the same time frame, it is estimated that there have been 76,000 barrels spilled a year. The pipeline also cuts straight through the Standing Rock Reservation, home of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. CNN reported that the project was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, seemingly without the consent of the Sioux people. The tribe’s major concerns are that the pipeline disrupts sacred burial sites and the possibility of a spill that would contaminate the Missouri River, which provides the tribe’s drinking water. Because of these concerns, many of the Standing Rock Sioux started to protest the construction of the pipeline and refer to themselves as water protectors. As information about the protests and the pipeline spread, more and more people started supported their cause. These protests include blocking the intended path of the pipeline and prayer circles. In early September, there was a temporary halt of construction because of these protests and appeal to a District Court of D.C., CNBC reports, however construction has since resumed. More recently, police in riot gear have been deployed to the scene and have utilized bean bag rounds, high pitched sirens, and pepper spray on the protesters. According to CNN, most protests are reportedly peaceful besides some destruction of construction equipment, leading to questioning if the police are using excessive force. Many protesters plan to remain through the winter.
The protests have been growing bigger in the past several weeks, with people from all over the country turning out to show their support, even celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley, who was arrested at the site. Several documentary filmmakers and reporters were also arrested. Other influential figures have taken to social media to show their support for the Sioux tribe. Many citizens who are incapable of physically protesting at the sight of the pipeline have followed their lead and used Twitter and Facebook as a form of protest. The protesters have adopted the slogan, “Water is Life,” which has been used in conjunction with most supportive posts. In a new call for action, Facebook users were urged to check in at Standing Rock. The post circling around the site states, “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at [SR] in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. SO Water Protectors are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at [SR], ND to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes.” More than 1.6 million people have checked into Standing Rock on Facebook.
On Oct. 31, the Morton County Sheriff’s Facebook page posted, “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is not and does not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location. This claim/rumor is absolutely false.”
There are other petitions circling around social media for people to show their support, as well as several fundraising and donation websites to send financial support to the protesters. There have also been urges for people to call their senators and representatives to voice their concerns on the issue.