“Water is life. Life is water,” about 40 students chanted, protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in Quarry Plaza. The Undocumented Alliance (UA) organized the demonstration on Nov. 7 to stand in solidarity with the Sioux tribe of Standing Rock.
“It is our job to be guardians of this, to be guardians of the earth, to be stewards of the Earth,” said Raymond Lebeau, co-chair of the Student Alliance of North American Indians. “We can’t let injustice blind us as people of this country. We are fighting whether or not we are here at the university, or [whether or not] we’re over there in North Dakota.”
The pipeline is scheduled to pass under the Missouri River, endangering the clean water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the 17 million others relying on the river for water. DAPL will also cross through native burial grounds, violating indigenous land and treaty rights. In response, an unprecedented number of native tribes have gathered in Standing Rock, North Dakota since early this summer to protest construction of the DAPL.
Riot police are meeting the peaceful protests with mass arrests, rubber bullets and police dogs. North Dakota Sheriff Kyle Kichmeier told BBC that the protesters are “a public safety issue” because they are blocking roads and trespassing on private property.
“I’m having a really tough time because I’m seeing my friends hurt, being attacked by dogs or maced or being brutalized and mass arrests and things like that,” said fourth-year Sylvane Vaccarino. “It’s tough for me to be here in school [and] realize what’s happening over there, and I feel like I should be there. So, on a personal level, I feel like any little thing I can do, even if it’s just getting loud in the Quarry, that’s the start. And we want this to build.”
Students at the solidarity demonstration stood in a circle, chanting in protest to the sound of drumming. They also passed out fliers explaining how students can help protesters in Standing Rock.
“This one is just to get it started,” Vaccarino said. “This is really to bring awareness and to bring people together and to start that conversation. This is an ongoing thing, taking action in solidarity.”
Itzamar Carmona, a student organizer from the UA said they organized this protest because something needed to be done on campus to show support and raise awareness. On Nov. 15, there will be nationwide protests, including a UC-wide demonstration to raise funds for protesters in North Dakota.
“To me, I don’t need a specific reason to care about this,” said Carmona. “Because they’re human. They need water, we need water, we’re all here on this Earth to live.”