Shouts of “Stand with Standing Rock!” echoed through the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza on Tuesday night during a rally to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The event, which was held as part of a national day of solidarity with Native American protestors on the Sioux Tribe Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, drew supporters from all over the Bay Area.
“We hope to send a message that goes all the way across the U.S.,” said Richard Gray of Marin County. He is a member of 350BayArea.org, which helped organize and advertise the rally. “We want Obama to put a stop to it.”
The pipeline, which is planned to run from North Dakota to Illinois, has faced increasing pressure from Native American tribes over environmental and tribal land concerns. On Friday, the Obama administration announced a temporary halt to construction in the vicinity of Lake Oahe, which provides water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
“I think it’s important to stop and consider what we’re doing to the Earth right now,” said protestor Rachel Deatherage. “The long-term effects are absolutely devastating. And the short-term—the violence and disrespect towards the Native Americans.”
Others agreed. “Over the decades, the corporations, the one percent, have slowly been destroying every natural resource we have,” said Anita DeAsis, who said she had come to protest the pipeline’s environmental impact and to show support for indigenous people.
Sitting with her was Sam Love of the Oneida Nation, who was looking for a way to take action. “I’m here to network,” she said. “I’m here to find my ride to North Dakota.”
She wasn’t the only one. Manny Lieras, a member of the Navajo and Comanche nations who greeted the crowd in Navajo, announced a caravan of local activists leaving from Oakland on Wednesday to travel to Standing Rock. He urged the crowd to make donations in support of the protestors. “The supplies that are needed are supplies for the winter,” he said.
But while speakers pushed for solidarity with the protestors in North Dakota, they also stressed the importance of activism on local issues.
“We have to fight our battles here as well,” said Andrés Soto, an environmental community organizer from Richmond. “If we can’t create revolution in our own backyard, how can we create revolution around the world?” He and other speakers encouraged attendees to speak out on the issues of air quality and crude oil trains in the Bay Area.
“There are decision-makers everywhere that are making decisions without our input,” said Patricia St. Onge, of Mohawk and French Canadian descent, who recently returned from visiting Standing Rock.
She recalled the Native American teaching that decision-making should consider how seven generations of descendants will be affected. “Whenever decisions are being made without the seventh generation in mind, it’s our responsibility to remind folks,” she said.
The rally included an announcement by Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (at-large) that she will be submitting a resolution to officially declare Oakland in opposition to the pipeline.
“The only people who need to care about this are the people who need to breathe the air and drink the water,” she said.