Demonstrators, including members of Black Lives Matter, gathered outside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on Friday to support those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
More than 200 demonstrators rallied outside the courthouse, holding banners that said, “We Are Protectors Not Protestors,” and chanting, “Water is Life.”
Many in attendance said they could not travel to North Dakota, so they came to the courthouse to show their support instead.
“There’s so much about racism, colonization and environmental issues mixed in this situation that you just have to be here,” said Natalia Vargas Marquez, a University of Minnesota graduate student.
She said it is important for the community to respond after Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies were recently seen using force on protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Between speakers, tribe members presented songs about Mother Earth and defending Standing Rock.
Some members came because they said the pipeline will impact the cleanliness of drinking water along its proposed route.
“We can’t drink oil,” said Brittany Anderson, a University community outreach coordinator for the Department of American Indian Studies. “We as a human race can’t exist if we don’t have water and taking care of Mother Earth is something we were always taught to do.”
Anderson said she is opposed to spending Hennepin County tax dollars to suppress demonstrations in North Dakota along with the contamination of water.
“We’ve got to stop that pipeline,” said Wanda Blue, a member of the Lower Sioux tribe. “It will wreck all of our water, not just the natives’.”
Allene Ross, a member of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, said she attended the protest not just for the American Indian demonstrators in North Dakota but for future generations of her own family.
“It’s not about us,” she said. “This is for our children. This is where we have to draw a line in the sand, and we have to say, ‘If not now, when?’”
Sergi Quiroz said members of the Twin Cities community should express concern over the Hennepin County’s use of police resources in North Dakota.
“Everybody here is trying to send a message that none of the Hennepin County Officers should be in North Dakota,” he said.
Quiroz, who has organized three trips with the Meshika community to protest the pipeline in Standing Rock, said the project will have consequences throughout the Midwest.
“This pipeline affects everyone,” he said. “We have to create consciousness among everyone to put a stop to any of these proposals.”
Quiroz said the demonstrators at Standing Rock displayed a sense of community and harmony.
“It was a great experience because you felt all the positive energy and the unity among all the tribes,” he said. “Everyone was peaceful.”
Demonstrators marched from Government Plaza station to City Hall, where speakers talked until the crowd disbanded late Friday afternoon.