For months, increasingly volatile protests against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline have dominated domestic and international headlines. Led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, protesters are fighting against the multi-state, multi-billion dollar project, a project that the Sioux and their supporters claim had desecrated sacred sites and compromises their water supply.
— Wayne Heimbach (@DailyRound) December 19, 2016
In recent weeks, the Dakota Access Pipeline protest reached its most political level, with the Obama administration stepping directly into the fray, and ultimately the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denying access to a vital easement under Lake Oahe and advising the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline to find an alternative route away from Standing Rock.
“The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record.”
In the aftermath of the early December announcement, participants in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest celebrated a massive victory. That celebration ultimately included some high-profile reinforcements as thousands of U.S. military veterans arrived at Standing Rock to lend their support protesters. The veterans, part of the grassroots social media call-to-action “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” brought with them much-needed supplies, moral support and military training.
The veterans even promised to form a “human shield” to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from increasingly violent assaults at the hands of law enforcement. Prior to the vets’ arrival, the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters had been threatened with eviction, but as their military back-up arrived, politicians and law enforcement backed off their threats to remove protesters from the disputed area. With the vets’ help, the protesters were able to build sturdier shelters to help them withstand the brutal North Dakota winter.
Standing Rock circle of celebration, and vets gather: thanks for their willingness to be a human shield. From Barry of SAP, a Vet for Peace. pic.twitter.com/Jvsz6gBQPE
— Transition ASAP (@transitionasap1) December 5, 2016
Unfortunately, despite the celebrations taking place at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site and the support of thousands of military veterans fighting for the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, their victory was short-lived. While the Obama administration-led U.S. Army Corp of Engineers denied the disputed and critical Lake Oahe easement, the companies behind the project refused to give up the fight to complete their multi-billion dollar project.
With the Lake Oahe segment being the final portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics have threatened to sue to get the job done. With Obama on his way out the door and President-elect Trump being a supporter of the pipeline, a lawsuit may not even be a necessity; the Trump administration may simply overturn the decision to deny the easement.
Trump supports completion of Dakota Access Pipeline https://t.co/7GGjcFmuT0
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) December 5, 2016
Because the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t over yet, the protest is still going strong. While Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II has told protesters to go home for now, many have refused, standing strong and fighting for a vital cause that has captivated the nation.
Over the New Year’s holiday weekend, more arrests were made at Standing Rock. As KFYRTV reports, three Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were arrested on Saturday after they crossed the Cannonball River onto Army Corps land. All three were charged with criminal trespass, and one with the additional charge of fleeing.
On New Year’s Day, two more protesters addressed the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy much more publicly. As AOL News reports, two activists scaled U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis using ropes and harnesses to reach the rafters. There, they hung a giant anti-Dakota Access Pipeline banner in the middle of Minnesota Vikings’ Week 17 game against the Chicago Bears.
— Carlos Gonzalez (@CarlosGphoto) January 1, 2017
The U.S. Bank Stadium was targeted because the bank has reportedly issued $175 million in credit lines to Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. Additionally, the pipeline was reportedly slated to be completed on January 1, 2017,before protesters began their vehement fight against its completion.
— Mark Albert (@malbertnews) January 1, 2017
The massive banner read “DIVEST #NoDAPL,” and it has been reported that the two protesters (one decked out in a Vikings Brett Favre jersey) were both booed and cheered for their efforts. Unsurprisingly, some turned to social media to speculate on why the response to two men in the rafters wasn’t more aggressive.
@malbertnews Not quite sure why they weren't shot. How did they know they weren't terrorists that were setting up to start shooting people.
— virginia salvatore (@virgsalvo1) January 2, 2017
Others wondered if perhaps the Dakota Access Pipeline activists who hung the sign had some inside help to get the job done.
@CarlosGphoto And how did they get up there I wonder. Surely someone in the stadium gave them access and equipment?
— Mike (@nauernotmauer) January 1, 2017
The Dakota Access Pipeline protest reportedly took place during the second quarter of the game, when the pair repelled to the rafters of the stadium. The Vikings issued a statement at halftime.
“Two individuals appear to have climbed over a guard rail to access the ridge truss. We immediately dispatched on-site Minneapolis police and fire departments to the scene and cleared the seating section below. We are working with all stadium partners, and our primary focus is on the safety of the fans and these two individuals. Officials are actively working to get them down safely. We will continue to update the media on the situation.”
Great security there! How do you not see a couple of clowns climbing the super beams open to view at all sides???
— TXSportsMediaNetwork (@TXSportsMedia) January 1, 2017
— Avarian Humanoid (@solfloras) January 2, 2017
— Mary Jo Malo (@mary_jo_malo) January 1, 2017
The Vikings went on to trounce the Chicago Bears 38-10, and police ultimately removed the protesters (but let their #NoDAPL banner remain hanging from the rafters of the stadium). The two were arrested and charged with trespassing for their brazen Dakota Access Pipeline protest efforts.
[Featured Image by Andy Clayton-King/AP Images]