Pipeline protesters rally in front of N.D. Capitol
BISMARCK-Opponents of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project took to the streets Thursday evening for a peaceful protest in solidarity against a project they say could cause severe harm to Missouri River drinking water for tribal member...
BISMARCK-Opponents of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project took to the streets Thursday evening for a peaceful protest in solidarity against a project they say could cause severe harm to Missouri River drinking water for tribal members and others.
"Even though the oil companies might have the money, they can't subdue the message," Cody Hall of Eagle Butte, S.D., spokesman for the Red Warrior Camp, said. "This is our stand. We all depend on water."
More than 200 protesters initially lined both sides of East Boulevard Avenue while about 60 members of state and local law enforcement looked on at the south entrance of the state Capitol. A city permit for 4 to 6 p.m. was granted for the protest.
East Boulevard Avenue was soon shut down between Fourth Street North and Seventh Street North to traffic, allowing participants to chant, dance and drum in the intersection in front of the Capitol.
"We will win this fight. We have to take a vigorous stance to fight for what's right," Hall said.
Holding signs with phrases including "No Dakota Access Pipeline" and "Rezpect our Water," participants chanted, cheered and were in high spirits.
"We can't drink oil, keep it in the soil," was a popular chant among the crowd.
As the protest wound down, participants invited members of law enforcement to join in the dancing, which a few obliged in doing briefly.
Afterward, protesters formed a line and walked the police line at the Capitol entrance, shaking hands and joking with officers.
Thursday's protest was an extension of the movement that's sprung up off of Highway 1806 near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. From 1,500 to 2,000 protesters are camping near a part of the project site in Morton County.
At the same time as the protest by the Capitol, about 20 people were at the now-closed work site along the Cannon Ball River, where protests have been staged over the past week. As no law enforcement or pipeline workers were there, the protesters walked around both sides of the barricade and up the path towards the construction site.
Construction workers recently had began ground work near where a section of the pipeline will go and a portion is planned to be bored under the Missouri River and run less than a mile from the tribe's reservation boundary.
This week, work temporarily ceased at the site. Oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month over the permits issued for the project are set for Wednesday in U.S. district court in Washington, D.C.
Protesters' concerns include potential contamination of the Missouri River if the pipeline were to rupture as well as the disturbance of cultural sites along the route.
Dakota Access LLC, a partner of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, countered the Standing Rock lawsuit earlier this week by filing a lawsuit against several protesters, alleging threats to the safety of construction workers and law enforcement.
At least 28 arrests had been made during the protests near the project site for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.
Dallas Goldtooth, a member of the Lower Sioux Dakota Nation in Minnesota and of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said Thursday's effort helps put the issue in the spotlight. He said putting it closer to the public in an urban setting also builds momentum.
"It definitely helps to engage and bring this discussion into public spaces. Folks are committed for the long run," Goldtooth said.
Doris Anderson, who lives along East Boulevard Avenue a few doors down from the intersection, said she's neutral on the project but said she understood opponents' concerns.
"I think it's been pretty calm. Respectful and calm," Anderson said as she looked on from her front lawn. "And they've got a lot to say."
Anderson suggested that, if the company altered the design of the project slightly, it might alleviate concerns by opponents. She added she'd never seen a large protest in person before.
The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline when finished would originate in western North Dakota near Stanley and end near Patoka, Ill.
Dakota Access began work on the nearly $3.8 billion project this spring following permit approval by state and federal officials. It would transport up to 450,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude when finished this year with a future capacity of 570,000 barrels per day.
Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, said in a statement the construction timeline remains unchanged.
"We are constructing this pipeline in accordance with applicable laws, and the local, state and federal permits and approvals we have received. This is an important energy infrastructure project that benefits all Americans and our national economy," she said.