Activists, artists and community members gathered Wednesday morning at the U.S. Bank Plaza to support the Standing Rock Sioux, a tribe working to stop the construction of a pipeline through culturally significant sites in North Dakota.
Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, has proposed a 1,172-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from North Dakota’s oil-rich Bakken production area, through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
Protesters said that the locally based law firm, Fredrikson & Byron, represents Dakota Access. Despite rain, about 100 people showed up downtown Minneapolis to protest the firm retaining Dakota Access as a client.
Fredrikson & Byron did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
Protesters held signs with slogans like “you can’t drink oil;” “love water, not oil, keep it in the soil;” and “water is sacred.” Others encouraged community members to call Fredrikson & Byron to persuade them to drop Dakota Access as a client. Many featured the hashtag, #dropthedapl.
“This helps to illustrate that there are many ways to get involved with what’s going on, even here in Minneapolis,” said Matt Barthelemy, who helped organize the protest.
When the group moved inside, police threatened to arrest protesters for blocking the skyway, according to organizers of the demonstration.
As protesters took an escalator down from the skyway, they chanted, “we will be back.”
Across the nation, protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have intensified, especially after Dakota Access was alleged to have bulldozed culturally and spiritually significant sites over the weekend.
Standing Rock Sioux filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt construction, which is scheduled to finish by the end of the year.
“The construction and operation of the pipeline… threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe,” Standing Rock Sioux said in the lawsuit.
The tribe and environmentalist groups are also concerned about the possibility of oil spills and leaks that could contaminate water sources.
Ashley Fairbanks, an Ojibwe artist and activist, was the primary organizer of the protest.
“We’ve been fighting against pipelines in Minnesota for years, and now we’re standing with our Lakota relatives,” Fairbanks said. “This is an environmental issue — an issue for anyone who drinks water, which is everyone.”