“Water is life!” chanted hundreds of protestors in downtown Saint Paul Tuesday evening to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has been actively trying to stop the construction of the 3.8 billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline that would run between the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Illinois.
The rally was just one of over 100 organized protests to show opposition to the pipeline on Sept. 13. Click here to see a map of where other rallies took place all over the world.
The protest kicked off with elected officials St. Paul City Councilwoman Jane Prince, Minneapolis City Councilwoman Alondra Cano and DFL Representative Frank Hornstein speaking to the supporters gathered in Mears Park.
In his speech, Hornstein referenced the most recent international climate change treaty – the Paris Agreement – as a reason that “We have to keep it in the ground!”
The chant was repeated in his speech and throughout the rally as a push to keep oil in the ground instead of a building a pipeline.
Representative Keith Ellison was also scheduled to speak, but he was in Washington D.C. so a community representative read a statement in his place. Environmental organizers and people with ties to the indigenous community also took turns at the mic.
Ironically, it drizzled on and off as protestors kept up their “water is life!” chant in English and an indigenous language marching from Mears Park down 5th Street to the Army Corps of Engineers Office and U.S. Bank.
“Water is life, life for us, for our children and the unborn children to come,” a protestor named Carrie told BringMeTheNews.
“Water gives life to everything, not just humans,” added her friend Rosa, who is originally from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, but is now a Minneapolis resident. “We can live without oil, but we cannot live without water,” she said.
According to ActionNetwork’s website, opponents of the pipeline hope that the global movement will put pressure on federal officials to revoke its permits.
That made St. Paul’s protest important because according to MN350, The Army Corps of Engineers – headquartered in downtown St. Paul – is the federal agency in charge of issuing the pipeline’s permits.
MN350 Representative Kathy Hollander told BringMeTheNews that the tribes were not consulted before the permits were issued, and they are now requesting a full environmental review as well as respect toward their sacred sites.
Hollander said the federal organization issues permits on a “superficial, fast-tracked basis.” After speaking to the protestors outside the front doors of the Army Corps of Engineers building, she went inside to deliver letters asking them to revoke the project’s permits entirely.
In front of U.S. Bank – which is also headquartered in Minnesota – protestors stopped for more speakers and a Native American prayer with drumming.
Ulla Nilsen, another MN350 representative who spoke to protestors, said that the bank has given millions of dollars to energy companies that are investing in the pipeline. “You are not going to use our money to build these death pipelines!” she said.
Nilsen also mentioned MN350’s work to strengthen the bank’s environmental policies in regards to indigenous people’s rights and climate change, which she believes are not being upheld.
Children with microphones then lead protestors back around the block to Mears Park where they listened to a few more speakers and Native American prayers and drumming.
According to a MN350 press release, around 5,000 primarily indigenous land defenders are camped in North Dakota to block the pipeline.
Before the crowd dispersed in Saint Paul, another organizer gave an update of what happened on Tuesday at Standing Rock. About 100 police officers – some with semi-automatic rifles – arrested 20 people including protestors, journalists and medics, she said.
Unicorn Riot confirmed this on their website claiming that two of the 20 people are their own journalists.
Organizer Andy Pearson with MN350 told BringMeTheNews that over 400 people turned out for Tuesday’s protest in Saint Paul.