Along with numerous other groups in cities across the nation, more than 300 demonstrators took the streets of downtown San Antonio Tuesday afternoon to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Protesters of all ages from various cultural heritages and Native American tribe affiliations gathered and then marched through downtown in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which fears that the 1,172-mile, 30-inch oil pipeline will pollute nearby water sources and devastate sacred tribal grounds.
The U.S. government decided Monday to delay granting an easement for the project’s construction in North Dakota, just one-half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation. The delay will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to gather more feedback from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on the project.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the Dallas-based company that is leading the effort, and Sunoco Logistics Partners, which is working with ETP, filed motions Monday night asking a federal district court in Washington, D.C. to move forward with granting the land easement and the Obama administration to cease its interference with the project.
Many Native American and environmental groups in opposition of DAPL across the U.S. were set to gather in their respective locations Tuesday for a national day of action in front of energy company offices, Army Corps of Engineers facilities, and banks. San Antonio’s group convened in front of the Bank of America building at 300 Convent St.
A smaller group of San Antonians protested earlier this month in front of the local ETP offices.
“We’re out in front of Bank of America specifically to raise awareness that the financial institutions and financial corporations are funding this pipeline, and Bank of America is one of the predominant funders of the pipeline,” said Sawyer Jolly, an organizer with San Antonio Stands with Standing Rock, the group that put on Tuesday’s march. “A lot of people don’t know that.”
Wielding signs with phrases such as “Water is life!” and “People over profit!” the mass of chanting people peacefully made its way through the streets, passing store fronts and tourists, and briefly stopping for a few minutes at Alamo Plaza before continuing on its route through downtown.
Members of various Native American tribes proudly donned traditional garb and beat ceremonial drums as they marched and chanted. Amanda Hernandez from the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas drove three hours from Eagle Pass to join the San Antonio protest.
Hernandez said that the Dakota Access Pipeline construction and the potential damage to the surrounding water sources affects everyone, “no matter the color of your skin.” While the government’s decision to delay the construction for an unspecified amount of time has brought a glimmer of hope to advocates like herself, Hernandez said she’s still nervous about president-elect Donald Trump and his administration pushing the project forward in the coming months.
“We’re just afraid that we’re going to lose the fight since he’s all about pipelines and making money,” she said.
Jolly and many other environmental rights advocates also worry about the Trump administration seeing as the president-elect has been vocal about his support for pipelines, but Tuesday’s protest and many others like it around the country were predominantly meant “to raise awareness of the treatment of the Native American people and the way that they’ve been treated throughout this whole thing.”
While it’s hard to remain optimistic in the light of a changing nation, Hernandez said the fight will continue.
“Whether or not they choose to acknowledge us,” she said, “we’re still here and we’re still fighting for our land.”