Dakota Ac­cess fight gives tem­plate for fu­ture pipe­line demon­stra­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY BLAKE NI­CHOL­SON

BIS­MARCK, N.D. | Pro­longed protests in North Dakota have failed to stop the flow of oil through the Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line, at least for now, but they have pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion and a blue­print for protests against pipe­lines in other states.

The months of demon­stra­tions that sought to halt the four-state pipe­line have largely died off with the Fe­bru­ary clear­ing of the main protest camp and the com­ple­tion of the pipe­line, which will soon be mov­ing oil from North Dakota to a dis­tri­bu­tion point in Illi­nois.

Four Sioux tribes are still su­ing to try to halt the project, which they say threat­ens their wa­ter sup­ply, cul­tural sites and re­li­gious rights. But they’ve faced a string of set­backs in court since Pres­i­dent Trump moved into the White House.

De­spite the set­backs, Dakota Ac­cess protest or­ga­niz­ers don’t view their ef­forts as wasted. They say the protests helped raise aware­ness na­tion­wide about their broader push for cleaner en­ergy and greater re­spect for the rights of in­dige­nous peo­ple.

“The op­por­tu­nity to build aware­ness started at Stand­ing Rock and it’s spread­ing out to other ar­eas of the United States,” said Dave Ar­cham­bault, the chair­man of the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribe, which has led the le­gal push to shut down the pipe­line project.

As protesters left the area in south­ern North Dakota where the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line crosses un­der a Mis­souri River reser­voir that serves as the tribes’ wa­ter sup­ply, or­ga­niz­ers called on them to take the fight to other parts of the coun­try where pipe­lines are in the works.

The tac­tics used in North Dakota — re­sis­tance camps, prom­i­nent use of so­cial me­dia, on­line fundrais­ing — now are be­ing used against sev­eral projects. They in­clude the Sa­bal Trail Pipe­line that will move nat­u­ral gas from Alabama to Florida; the Trans-Pe­cos nat­u­ral gas pipe­line in Texas; the Di­a­mond Pipe­line that will carry oil from Ok­la­homa to Ten­nessee; and the At­lantic Sun­rise Pipe­line that will move nat­u­ral gas from Penn­syl­va­nia to Vir­ginia.

They’re also be­ing used against projects that are still in the plan­ning stages, in­clud­ing the pro­posed Pil­grim oil pipe­line in New York and New Jersey and the pro­posed Bayou Bridge Pipe­line in Louisiana.

Dakota Ac­cess op­po­nents have also vowed to fight against the resur­gent Key­stone XL pipe­line, which would move crude oil from Canada to Ne­braska and on to Texas Gulf Coast re­finer­ies.

“A big part of our mes­sage was not just to na­tion­al­ize the fight against Dakota Ac­cess, but to high­light re­gional is­sues that peo­ple are fac­ing,” said Dallas Gold­tooth, an or­ga­nizer with the In­dige­nous En­vi­ron­men­tal Net­work. “To use our mo­men­tum.”

The in­flu­ence of the Dakota Ac­cess protest is ev­i­dent in var­i­ous forms. For ex­am­ple, some who protested in North Dakota have gone to Texas and Florida to help with those demon­stra­tions, ac­cord­ing to Gold­tooth. The Red War­rior So­ci­ety, a pipe­line protest group that ad­vo­cated ag­gres­sive tac­tics in North Dakota, is pro­mot­ing re­sis­tance in other states via so­cial me­dia.

There are nearly a dozen ac­counts on GoFundMe seek­ing money to bat­tle the Sa­bal Trail and Trans-Pe­cos pipe­lines. The So­ci­ety of Na­tive Na­tions, which is fight­ing the Trans-Pe­cos, used the protest camp model from North Dakota to set up a camp in Texas, ac­cord­ing to Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Frankie Orona.

“I re­ally be­lieve this mo­men­tum is go­ing to stay alive,” said Mr. Orona. “Stand­ing Rock was the fo­cal point, was the root of this move­ment. If we learned any­thing from Stand­ing Rock, it’s the power of unity. It wasn’t one [tribal] na­tion — it was more than 400.”

Hun­dreds, and some­times thou­sands, of Dakota Ac­cess op­po­nents con­gre­gated at the main protest camp for half a year, of­ten clash­ing with po­lice to draw at­ten­tion to their cause. More than 750 peo­ple were ar­rested be­tween early Au­gust and late Fe­bru­ary, when the camp was closed in ad­vance of spring flood­ing sea­son.

The pro­longed protest gar­nered wide­spread and con­sis­tent at­ten­tion on so­cial me­dia, and it has fil­tered down, to some de­gree, to the pipe­line protests else­where. That has el­e­vated ac­tivists’ con­cerns from lo­cal demon­stra­tions to a na­tional stage, ac­cord­ing to Brian Hos­mer, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of Western Amer­i­can his­tory at the Univer­sity of Tulsa.


Pro­longed protests in North Dakota failed to stop the flow of oil through the Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line, but the protests pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion for protests against pipe­lines around the coun­try. These tac­tics in­clude: re­sis­tance camps, so­cial me­dia and on­line fundrais­ing.

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