Efforts by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to block construction of an oil pipeline through lands that they consider sacred has drawn a broad coalition of supporters ranging from other indigenous tribes to environmental activists. And Pennsylvanians are among those voicing their concerns about the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In a protest last week, about 150 people rallied in downtown Pittsburgh to support the Standing Rock Sioux and others trying to permanently stop construction of the pipeline. The protesters held a long banner reading “Stop the Pipeline” across Liberty Avenue—closing the street to traffic for about twenty minutes, before moving to the sidewalk.
LISTEN: Pittsburghers Join Protests Against Dakota Access Pipeline
“Native Americans were the first people here, and now they’re calling them trespassers,” says Leah Solomon, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. “How can you call them trespassers? We’re the trespassers. They’ve been protecting the land since we came here and took it over, and it’s about time everyone stood up for them.”
David Smith, who is of Native American descent, was among the Pittsburghers who joined the show of solidarity.
“This is not an Indian thing. This is a human thing,” Smith said. “This affects all of us. Pipelines break, they explode, they pollute. They make all these promises that these pipelines are going to be safe, but their words are empty. So their promises are empty.”
Over the last month, the events surrounding the protests have been full of high drama. Several dozen demonstrators have been arrested since the protests began. On September 9, just minutes after a federal judge dismissed the Standing Rock Sioux’s request for an injunction, the Obama administration announced it was halting construction of the pipeline while it reviews the project.