Resistance against the Dakota pipeline has crossed state and ethnic lines with activists taking against the company behind the project with a protest outside its headquarter in Dallas, Texas.
The company, Energy Transfer Partners, is building a pipeline over one thousand miles away, from South Dakota to Illinois. But the activists in Texas were moved by a national call from the affected tribes who say the “Black Snake” crosses treaty-protected land and would contaminate the drinking water of millions.
An estimated 200 people chanted in front of company's offices, with support from dozens of groups, including the American Indian Movement, the Brown Berets, the Sierra Club and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“What happened today was phenomenal,” Yolonda BlueHorse of Dallas’s American Indian Movement chapter, the event’s host, said in an interview with teleSUR. “It didn’t matter what race or religion or anything like that, the networking that took place—it was something to sit back and go, ‘Wow, this is what we are about.’”
BlueHorse began organizing the protest three weeks ago with a handful of others when she heard that Energy Transfer Partners was headquartered in her backyard. By then the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline—with dozens of tribes taking part—were beginning to make national headlines.
“Everybody in the Native American world, in the Indigenous world, were all watching what’s going on,” she said. She immediately began reaching out to bring together groups that “on any other normal business day” would not have joined forces.
Debra Mendoza, leader of the Carnalismo National Brown Berets of Dallas, was one of the first to come on board. She told teleSUR that as of this year the Brown Berets have had a “solidarity pact” with AIM in Dallas to support each other’s actions. As usual, they provided security, made a speech and reached out to Spanish-language media to “bring both brown people together.”
At stake is the drinking water of people across the country, she said, and future generations that will suffer the cost of scarcity—from reduced access to clean drinking water to the effects of climate change exacerbated by ever more oil produciton. Other Latino groups, such as La Raza Unida, have also expressed support for the Dakota occupation, which has become the latest front for activists previously focused on the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
Energy Transfer did not comment on the protest, but BlueHorse said that she did not expect “these big oil corporations, these billionaires” to acknowledge the permanent harm that would happen when—not if—the pipeline bursts.
The company will have many other opportunities to respond: the Red Warrior Camp is organizing two weeks of solidarity protests in cities across the country, starting Saturday. Actions will target key stakeholders in the pipeline, including Citibank and TD Securities, who are financing the project.
The issue goes beyond the Dakotas, said BlueHorse, not only because the Missouri River would carry the contamination downstream, but also because tribes are threatened by pipelines in areas even closer to Dallas. BlueHorse and Mendoza will soon travel to Oklahoma, where they have been invited to support local resistance against another pipeline project. They were also recently contacted by tribes in southern Texas, where Energy Transfer is building the Trans-Pecos Pipeline through treaty land—where Latinos also live, Mendoza noted.
Protests against treaty violations are nothing new. A coal mine in Eagle Pass, Texas, has also attracted Indigenous opposition this year, but wide-scale protests have been limited since media rarely cover the environmental consequences of these projects.
After Friday’s event, though, BlueHorse said her network is bigger than ever.