Since last Thursday’s violent clash in which 141 Indigenous Water Protectors were arrested, marked with numbers and put into dog-kennel-like holding cells after defending land directly in the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, activists from across the US and around the world have responded with a groundswell of actions in solidarity. These actions have strategically targeted the Dakota Access pipeline’s funders, as well as law enforcement agencies sending resources and personnel to brutalize Indigenous resisters and allies.
Isabella Zizi, who is of the northern Cheyenne, Arikara and Muscogee Creek nations protested at Citigroup’s headquarters in San Francisco on Monday. “I wanted to let those out in Standing Rock know that we are supporting them even if we can’t make it out [to North Dakota],” Zizi told Truthout. “We will do anything that we can to be in solidarity with them.”
A global outcry has followed an attack on Native Water Protectors gathered on 1851 Oceti Sakowin treaty land north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on Thursday, October 27. More than 200 law enforcement officers from seven different states and National Guard personnel used flash grenades, bean bag launchers, pepper spray and long range acoustic devices, and even allegedly fired live ammunition on Indigenous Land Defenders protecting sacred burial grounds.
Officials charged one Native Water Protector with attempted murder after the October 27 standoff, even as Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said he could not confirm Land Defenders fired shots during Thursday’s raid.
President Obama has since said that the Army Corps of Engineers is considering rerouting the pipeline — slated to carry Bakken crude from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and to an Illinois distribution center — after last week’s escalated crackdown. “We’re monitoring this closely,” President Obama told NowThis. “My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”
But only hours after the president’s comments on Dakota Access, the US Army Corps of Engineers ordered North Dakota police to move in and arrest Indigenous Water Protectors and demolish a makeshift bridge they built over a creek to reportedly gain access to private land where the latest round of construction is occurring. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against Native Land Defenders this week.
In the face of this advancing construction, Native communities and activists around the world are taking bold action in solidarity with those at Standing Rock. Since Thursday’s police sweep, activists in the US and abroad have strategically targeted the powerful interests bankrolling the pipeline by locking themselves down inside banks, protesting the pipeline’s billionaire backers, rallying at city halls to protest public resources and police personnel being sent to suppress Native Water Protectors, speaking out online by “checking in” at Standing Rock on Facebook, and donating money to the protesters’ legal fund and to cover other expenses.
Activists have also targeted President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, with Native youth flooding Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn to demand she oppose the pipeline on the day of the mass arrests at Standing Rock. There were also demonstrations to demand the pipeline’s cancellation near a Clinton presidential campaign fundraiser with President Obama in Beverly Hills on October 24.
Investigations by LittleSis and Food and Water Watch reveal that 38 banks have extended more than $10.25 billion in loans to fund the Energy Transfer group of companies behind the pipeline, which include Energy Transfer Partners, Energy Transfer Equity, Sunoco Logistics and Dakota Access LLC. Additionally, Canada’s largest pipeline company, Enbridge, with the Texas-based Marathon Petroleum Corporation put down $2.6 billion last month to become joint stakeholders of 49 percent of the Dakota Access pipeline. Phillips 66 also owns a 25 percent stake in the pipeline.
Seventeen major banks are backing Dakota Access LLC directly with a $2.5 billion credit line to build the pipeline. Major funders include Citibank, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Mizuho Bank, TD Securities, ABN AMRO Capital, DNB First Bank, ICBC London, SMBC Nikko Securities and Société Générale.
After the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock (Sacred Stone and Oceti Sakowin are among the other camps), put out a call for solidarity actions last Thursday, protests have unfolded in the US and abroad. In Canada, on Friday night, Indigenous resisters from the Kahnawake Mohawk nation shut down a highway bridge leading to Montreal. In Kingston, Ontario, on Saturday, several TD Bank ATMs were smashed with hammers and spray-painted with “NO DAPL.” In New Zealand, the Indigenous Māori people have been expressing support by posting videos of a traditional Māori war dance called the “haka” to a Facebook group called “Haka with Standing Rock.”
In the US, several protests at banks funding the pipeline have led to arrests of Native activists and their allies. In San Francisco on Monday, 12 activists with Diablo Rising Tide were arrested at the Citigroup bank headquarters after shutting down the elevators that lead to the bank’s corporate offices to protest its role as the lead arranger and lender to the Dakota Access pipeline. More than 50 people protested in front of the bank, including Zizi, who organizes with Idle No More SF Bay.
“Personally, it is affecting me because my relatives do live in [the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota], which is literally right in the area where the Bakken oil is being extracted and pulled out by the oil trains and all. It’s really heartbreaking to see my relatives and all the tribes and all the people having to deal with that.”
That same day in Salt Lake City, eight people were arrested after chaining themselves together at a downtown Wells Fargo location, demanding the bank cancel its investment in Dakota Access.
“What [those at Standing Rock] are doing for us, putting their bodies on the line and standing there with no weapons, peacefully being Water Protectors, we want them to know that we hear them. We’re here. That’s why we did what we did,” said Carol Surveyor, who was at the Wells Fargo protest Monday and is Navajo/Diné. She cited the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill’s effect on the Navajo Nation’s water as a personal motivation to act in solidarity with Standing Rock. “I know what happens to a town, to these communities, when they go into a panic when their water is contaminated,” she said.
Surveyor, who has traveled to Standing Rock, told Truthout that several activists involved with the bank action also staged a sit-in at city hall in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, aiming to pressure city officials to pass a resolution that would formally express the city’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux and their struggle against the pipeline.
In other cities, activists protested their local police departments’ complicity in the violence being enacted against resisters at Standing Rock. More than 1,000 people demonstrated at the Minneapolis city hall on Friday, October 28, to protest the deployment of Hennepin County police to brutalize Native Water Protectors. The rally led to a sit-in at the office of Sheriff Rich Stanek, who has sent county deputies to Standing Rock.
On Thursday, protesters in Austin, Texas, gathered outside the Texas Parks and Wildlife Headquarters to demand that Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren step down or be removed from the state’s Parks and Wildlife Commission. They cited Warren’s appointment by Gov. Greg Abbot as a conflict of interest. Warren gave more than $500,000 to Abbott during his gubernatorial campaign, and a combined $30,000 to Abbot’s 2006 and 2010 campaigns for state attorney general, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
“I wonder if the Texas Parks and Wildlife scientists would be as amenable [to oil and gas development] if they weren’t pressured by the [industry reps on the] commission,” said Lori Glover, an organizer and cofounder of Defend Big Bend, which is fighting another Energy Transfer Partners pipeline, the Trans-Pecos, through the state’s Big Bend region. “There have been so many pipeline explosions over the past few years, yet [the commission] continues to say that there’s no problem, and gives out these [oil and gas] permits and allows these things to happen.”
The Austin rally also addressed the Houston-based Apache Corporation’s plans to drill for oil and gas around West Texas’ serene Balmorhea State Park and its well-known spring-fed pools.
“The significance of what’s happening [in Standing Rock] is no different than when they marched into my family’s home at bayonet point, took them away from their dinner tables, told them ‘Grab what you can. You’re out of here. You’re going to Oklahoma,'” said Neta Rhyne, who is a Cherokee descendent of the Trail of Tears, and is fighting to save the Balmorhea springs. “But I think there’s a new awakening. People are getting tired of it. They’re realizing the impact that this is going to have on future generations.”
Native Water Protectors and allied protesters jumped on an opportunity to confront Warren directly during the quarterly commission meeting Thursday, as the commission weighed a proposal to run six pipelines through the wildlife management area in the state.
After taking heat from several Indigenous leaders and environmentalists, Warren agreed to meet with Native leaders of the Society of Native Nations to discuss the desecreation of Native burial sites after one of the group’s members, Pete Hefflin, asked him directly about the issue. The two exchanged contact informration, and Warren later recused himself from the vote on the proposal.
Other recent actions included lockdowns in Providence, Rhode Island, where two people blocked the entrance to a TD Bank branch and corporate office; Mount Laurel, New Jersey, where four people were arrested after sitting-in at TD Bank’s corporate headquarters there; and Philadelphia, where 25 people sat-in at a TD Bank ATM lobby.
Protests at banks funding the pipeline and at corporate headquarters of companies directly behind the pipeline have jumped off in cities across the country in recent months, including large demonstrations in New York City, where on Tuesday, dozens of activists disrupted morning commutes by blockading the Grand Central Terminal before marching to the offices of JP Morgan and Bank of America. Other large demonstrations have erupted in Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, New Haven and elsewhere.
Last weekend, more than a million people “checked in” to Standing Rock on Facebook, in an overwhelming display of online solidarity and an attempt to confuse police efforts to monitor which individuals are at the resistance camps in Standing Rock. Meanwhile, hundreds of people have showed their support online by contributing to the camps’ legal funds and donating to pay for expenses at the Standing Rock camps.
In one way or another, these communities are responding directly to the Red Warrior Camp’s call for solidarity actions in the aftermath of last Thursday’s police sweep. The statement asks allies to travel directly to Standing Rock if they can, as advancing police forces and winter weather have made sustaining the encampment increasingly difficult.
The camp asks allies who can’t be present at Standing Rock to take escalated action against strategic targets by going to NoDAPLSolidarity.org and registering within the global solidarity network to target local Army Corps, banks, pipeline companies, corporations and elected officials responsible for the pipeline with nonviolent direct action. Lastly, the statement asks allies to send donations to the official Red Warrior Camp Fund and Official Legal Fund. The Sacred Stone Camp is also accepting donations at the Official Sacred Stone Camp Fund.
Other ways to help include calling elected officials, such as North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the Army Corps of Engineers and the White House, and staying vocal on social media.
“I can’t physically go to North Dakota, but I wanted to still be an ally in this movement, in this fight, by taking direct action locally,” said Laura Borth, who was arrested after locking down at a TD Bank in Providence, Rhode Island. “It’s more than just a climate change issue or a climate justice issue, it’s about this violence and oppression that’s been facing Indigenous people for years in our country.”