By Angelina Liang
On Sept. 9, the Obama Administration temporarily halted the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Native American territory.
The order was implemented after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to stop construction of the pipeline on that same day.
The $3.8 billion project, if finished, promises to deliver half a billion barrels of crude oil a day across four states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois – to be transferred to oil refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, vowed that this pipeline is the safest option for transporting the crude oil.
For months, Native American tribes and sympathizers have been gathering near the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in protest of the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline, which is said reduce the risk of transporting oil, is scheduled to be built through land that belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
If built, the pipeline would destroy sacred sites and burial grounds of the native tribe. Moreover, its close proximity to surrounding rivers and lakes means that in the event of an oil spill, the water would become contaminated, limiting the entire state’s access to clean water.
“It’s about our rights as native people to this land. It’s about our rights to worship,” stated one protester, who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s about our rights to be able to call a place home, and it’s our rights to water.”
Although protests have been generally peaceful, there have been several clashes between demonstrators and private guards of Energy Transfer Partners. On Sept. 3, the situation escalated when guards began using pepper spray and unleashing attack dogs after some protesters trespassed onto the construction site.
Following this confrontation, North Dakota’s governor called for 100 troops from the National Guard to aid local law enforcement and ensure greater security near the protest site. On Sept. 13, police in riot gear began mass arrests.
Some protesters were arrested at gunpoint after they chained themselves to the construction equipment. The cause has attracted the attention of many celebrities and political activists, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Stein is currently facing charges for criminal trespass and criminal mischief after spray painting the words, “I approve this message,” across a construction bulldozer during a protest.