About 50 people rallied on the Oval Wednesday afternoon to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,177-mile construction set to transport oil from North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to markets in Illinois.
This protest — held by local civic group Socialist Students Columbus — kicked off with speeches addressing the potential environmental issues brought by the pipeline. Protesters fear that its proximity to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation will contaminate drinking water and sacred sites for indigenous nations.
“This issue might seem like it’s far away, it’s all the way in North Dakota,” said Dana White, an OSU graduate student from the College of Social Work who attended the event. “But it is important for us to stand in solidarity with the tribes who are at Standing Rock fighting for the land, and for the water and for the tribal rights.”
Mia Zerkle, a first-year in biochemistry and political science and one of the organizers of the protest, said this activity aims to pressure the U.S. Bank, which has a branch in the Ohio Union, to remove its investment on the construction and bring the issue to students’ attention.
“We want to bring the issue to light,” Zerkle said. “There are still plenty of people on this university’s campus who either don’t know what the pipeline is, or don’t realize that the effects of it on the people around it are so detrimental.”
This protest is among a series of protests in 300 cities after the pipeline project was made public in July 2014. The move to send Ohio State troopers to assist North Dakota authorities with handling protesters recently drew the ire of some citizens and elected officials in the Buckeye State, including protesters who took to the streets downtown on Tuesday. The troopers returned to Ohio on Wednesday, unrelated to local protests.
“(The pipeline) is harming the people, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.” Zerkle said. “They are human beings just like us.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — one of the government agency involved in the construction — has said that the pipeline won’t go through any reservation and will operate at a distance that there won’t be any direct or indirect damage to lands.
But protesters are concerned that the proposed proximity of the pipeline — 0.5 miles from the reservation — still has the capacity to impact local drinking water and the sacred sites for indigenous nations.
There are also worries about sustainability.
“(The pipeline is) reinforcing our reliance on energy that is not necessarily the best for the environment,” Zerkle said.
Representatives from Socialist Students Columbus said they to hold more events to protest the pipeline.