The American Indian Student Union at the University of Maryland hosted an event on campus Monday to demonstrate their solidarity and with the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.
About 30 students gathered and took a photo in front of Honorable Plaza, where they held up signs while raising their fists to show their support for those not only who will be affected by the pipeline, but the hundreds of people camping out and fighting against its construction.
Violent protests and heavily rising tensions around the country have made headlines in the past few months due to the controversial installation of a 1,172 mile oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Hundreds of people, mostly Native Americans from several tribes, have camped out in a nearby area to stop or delay construction, which they say poses a threat to sacred tribal lands and could potentially poison waterways.
The $3.8 billion pipeline under construction by Energy Transfer Partners will transfer about 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken Shale Fields of North Dakota to other pipelines in Peoria, Illinois. According to their website, it will stimulate the economy by bringing in millions of dollars in tax and state revenue, as well as creating 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs.
The project has been met with extreme controversy, ranging from violent protests to about 1.6 million Facebook users “checking in” at the reservation to demonstrate their solidarity. The main concern of protesters is that the pipeline will destroy historical land, as well as pose a potential threat to the environment if oil leaks into the Missouri River.
The nationwide support to preserve the land and prevent an economic catastrophe has even spread to college campuses, where students and organizations have hosted information sessions as well as fundraisers and small peaceful protests, including Monday’s event at UMD.
Karla Casique, president of AISU at UMD and a junior multi-platform journalism major, said via email that she organized the event in order “to bring people together and demonstrate that we will not stand for the injustices that are occurring. Having clean water should be a basic human right and the fact that it’s being denied to a community that has been facing genocide since 1492 is horrifying.”
Madison Churchill, a sophomore philosophy major, said Monday’s event was a “cool experience” and has sparked her motivation to do more for the cause, such as attend a Washington, D.C., protest in a few weeks.
“One of my friends is actually at the protests in Standing Rock and I know she would be proud of me if she knew i was doing as much as I can,” Churchill said. “People on campus are really upset because of not only the environmental impact that it will have on the reservations, but it also reflects how poorly Native Americans have been treated countless times throughout this country’s history.”
According to the L.A. Times, more than 400 arrests have been made at the site of the protests by law enforcement and demonstrations have taken a violent turn. The pipeline nearly complete, despite several standoffs and attempts to delay the project. The Bismarck Tribune reported that the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services will be receiving $4 million in funding to support law enforcement in removing protesters, despite already having received $6 million.
“Water is sacred and if this pipeline is finished, it will threaten the lives of everyone at Standing Rock, a blunt sign that the U.S. continues to not care for the lives of indigenous peoples,” Casique said.