The Bakken (Dakota Access) Pipeline Protest began in April 2016 against the construction moving through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The pipeline would risk the contamination of several water sources along the planned path and protesters use this as their main argument in their attempt to block or reroute the project under environmental, health, and civil rights concerns.
Protesters showcase their numbers and unity withing the movement.
Summary of Findings
The Bakken Pipeline has been designed and planned by Energy Transfer Partners since 2014 and is currently under construction by company subsidiary Dakota Access. The project estimated at $3.7 billion was created to connect the Bakken Shale fracking refinery in North Dakota to the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline in Illinois where the oil will start to travel across the country towards Texas. The planned route of the pipeline caused issues, however, due to increasing pressure from Native Americans at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who state that the pipeline would destroy sacred cultural sites and ran the risk of contaminating water from the Missouri River and Lake Oahe , the main water sources for the Sioux Tribe.
Protests began soon after the pipeline started its construction in March of 2016. Since then, protestors have been met with attacks from the police and company mercenaries using attack dogs, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, and tear gas to try and push them away from the construction site. Using nonviolent methods, such as social media use, prayer circles, and camps, protesters continued their occupation of the site and garnered attention for the movement.
After several failed attempts for legal intervention, the protesters remained steadfast and soon more protesters joined to create a larger, nationwide movement that prompted federal authorities to act in response. As of December 4th, 2016, a decision has been made by the Department of the Army to block and look for alternative routes for the pipeline away from the reservation and Lake Oahe. However the prospect could be challenged by the incoming change in administration on January 20th, 2017.
Police spray protesters with high-pressure water cannons.
Protester watches as police march in with riot gear.
Reflection of Movement
At its early stages, the movement had a Native base and was composed mainly of members from the Sioux Tribal Nation who were directly being affected by the pipeline's construction. These people were feeling marginalized not only from the potential hazard to their water and livelihoods, but from the systematic discrimination they felt was at the core of the pipeline's placement. The construction of the pipeline would not only destroy their cultural lands, but it would also tresspass on their civil rights.
The protests only gained momentum after other groups, such as environmentalists and celebrities began to get involved. The use of social media by these groups helped to spread attention to the movement and was used to provide evidence of the brutal methods being used to disperse the protesters involved. When police and mercenaries began using violent methods to quell them, the attacks were brought to the media's attention and used to bolster the protester's cause. Every video of police attacking protesters were used to delegitimize the pro-pipeline side of the movement and attract more supporters to the protest in the hopes of stopping the injustice.
The movement, rather than remaining solely Native American in nature, spread to several others, and became accessible to anyone willing to take a stance. Although individual lawsuits failed to stop the pipeline's construction, the movement continued to grow and involve more people over time. With all the supporters flocking to the site and speaking out online to support the protest, a federal response had to be given in order to address the growing issue.
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