Published December 12, 2016
Hundreds of activists rallied and marched in downtown D.C. Saturday afternoon in a show of solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline Water Protectors, demanding that the government honor native treaties and protect the environment.
“We have a responsibility having decision makers in the capital here at our reach, so we wanted to make sure that we work together, that we bring attention, that we network, and continue to do the important work that’s necessary to stop the pipeline that’s crossing the Missouri river,” said Teko Alejo, an organizer with local grassroots coalition DC Stands With Standing Rock. “[The pipeline] is on pause, it’s not a denial. There’s still the possibility of construction going through there … Until the pipeline is halted, the work needs to continue.”
The event was held on International Human Rights Day because activists contend that the threat the pipeline poses to ancestral lands and drinking water is a human rights issue. The Standing Rock Sioux say the pipeline violates Sioux territory that the federal government established by treaty, and could disrupt sacred sites and contaminate their only supply of drinking water.
Police have used water cannons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against the people camped in protest at the Missouri River.
“The struggle at Standing Rock is a struggle that reflects so many things affecting indigenous people around the world—the threats to their homelands, their ancestral lands, their survival, their human rights,” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez, who is Maya Mam Nation and an organizer of the event. “[The Water Protectors] have been defending their human rights which are tied to the land, because we as indigenous people are not separate from the earth. When the earth is affected, we are also affected.”
Last week the Army Corps of Engineers said they will not approve the easement necessary to permit the pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, but protesters are worried the victory is a fleeting one. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to support projects like this and Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the DAPL company Energy Transfer Partners, has contributed generously to Trump’s campaign and to the Republican Party.
According to his spokeswoman, Trump has sold his shares in Energy Transfer Partners but still owns up to $250,000 of stock in Phillips 66, which has a 25 percent stake in the pipeline project.
“The people need to stay there,” says Jasilyn Charger, a Water Protector of the Cheyanne River tribe who says she has spent a lot of time at Standing Rock. She wore a knitted black hat embroidered with “Native Pride” as she urged rallygoers to keep fighting. “We can’t let them scare us with threatening of flooding our campgrounds, with threatening of raiding our camp. We have to persevere through our fear and turn it into courage because we can’t let this pipeline go through. This is our water, this means a lot to a lot of people.”
Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners expressed strongly-worded pushback to the Army’s decision, saying they are “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe.”
Native activists also want President Barack Obama to grant Leonard Peltier clemency before he leaves office, and they say time is running out. Peltier is a Native American activist convicted of the murder of two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975, though supporters contend he was framed.
Prominent human rights groups such as Amnesty International have called for the release of the 72-year-old Anishinabe-Lakota man, who now suffers from diabetes and other health problems…read more here.