Over 30 activists arrested over Dakota oil pipeline protests

Demonstrators join members of North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to protest against construction of a Bakken shale pipeline they say would pollute water and desecrate sacred land, in Washington DC August 24, 2016. © Ruthy Munoz
More arrests have been made in North Dakota and have started taking place in Iowa over the proposed construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Since protests began several months ago, more than 60 people have been arrested.

Over 100 protesters took a stand against the pipeline in Boone, Iowa on Wednesday, near the construction site where they chanted “this is what democracy looks like.”

The Iowa protest was held in in solidarity with rallies which began two months ago by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe over the construction of the pipeline in North Dakota. The pipeline, if constructed, would travel through the four states of North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

Iowa protesters tried to create human chains to block four entrances to a construction staging site leading to 30 arrests.

One of the arrestees was Crystal Defatte, a stay-at-home mother with three children.

"Every year you hear about oil spills. I don't want oil in the water that my children drink. This is a moral responsibility for me," Defatte told the Des Moines Registrar.

A representative of Precision Pipeline, a contractor for Dakota Access, told the protesters they were not welcome and asked them to leave.

The local sheriff’s office told the Associated Press the protesters could face misdemeanor charges after blocking access to the site.

Organizers said additional demonstrations will be forthcoming in Iowa, along with more arrests.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has also weighed in on the protests and said the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe must have a say on the oil pipeline.

The forum’s chairman Alvaro Pop Ac in a released statement on Wednesday called on the US to provide the tribe with a “fair, independent, impartial open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses.”

The forum argues the pipeline construction threatens Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the US endorsed in 2010, and mandates that “states shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous people concerned in order to obtain their fair, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measure that may affect them.”

Also on Wednesday, authorities cut free a man who bound himself to construction equipment, and arrested at least two protesters during a rally in St. Anthony, North Dakota.

Environmental activists and indigenous Americans from reservations hundreds of miles away from North Dakota have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s growing protest against the contentious $3.8 billion oil pipeline. The tribe argues the pipeline could disturb sacred sites and effect drinking water for 8,500 tribal members and millions further downstream.

“[We] never had an opportunity to express our concerns," Dave Archambault, chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told Democracy Now.

"This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes. And the things that have happened to tribal nations across this nation have been unjust and unfair, and this has come to a point where we can no longer pay the costs for this nation’s well-being."

On August 10, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an emergency injunction against the Army Corps of Engineers for lack of consultation in an attempt to delay construction on the four-state oil pipeline.

A federal judge will rule before September 9 whether construction can be halted on the Dakota Access pipeline. The 1,172 mile long oil pipeline will pass through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota and cross underneath the Missouri River.

The 30-inch-diameter pipeline is expected to carry about 450,000 barrels per day, with capacity of up to 570,000 barrels per day. The route will begin in the Bakken oil fields near Stanley, North Dakota and end at Patoka, Illinois where the oil can be transported via another pipeline to the Gulf Coast or shipped to other markets. The project also has faced protest and controversy in North Dakota and South Dakota. Some see the pipeline as Keystone XL 2.0, named after the Canada-to-Texas tar sands pipeline that was eventually blocked by the Obama administration.

In the last two weeks, about 30 other people have been arrested at the campsite in North Dakota, the tribal chairman included, for blocking entry to construction sites.