After months of impassioned protests, resistance against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline continues to grow. Across the nation, people are voicing their opposition by proclaiming unity with the native Sioux at Standing Rock, whose land has been subjected to the dangers of pipeline development. In Santa Barbara, activists now join in raising awareness of the environmental and social turmoil occurring over 1,500 miles away.
Organized by local environmental group Keep It Clean Santa Barbara, a march through downtown is taking place this Saturday, Nov. 19. Protesters will gather in front of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse at 1 p.m. and will rally down State Street to Stearns Wharf. Leanna Garcia, lead coordinator of the protest, talked to The Bottom Line about the issues occurring at Standing Rock and why the community should take a stance.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline plans to connect right underneath the Missouri River, and if completed it is only a matter of time before leaks and spills begin to contaminate the precious soil and water that millions of people, fish and animals rely on for survival,” Garcia told The Bottom Line.
The $3.87 billion project, initiated by Energy Transfer Partners plans to cut through sacred land and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In addition to protecting their territory, the Native Americans, considering themselves “water protectors,” recognize this threat to their water supply.
The U.S. has increasingly been familiarized with pipeline disasters. Since 1995, over 2,000 accidents have caused billions of dollars in property damage, water contamination, and environmental degradation. Last year, Refugio State Beach experienced one of the largest crude oil spills in the last 20 years, with 105,000 gallons gushing from a busted conduit.
While thousands (including some UCSB Students) have voyaged to Standing Rock to prevent another potentially disastrous pipeline, most Americans lack the flexibility to get to the front lines. Instead, demonstrations across the country have proliferated, which Garcia said “really do help inform people within our communities, states, and even other countries of what is happening, and how they can get involved.”
Garcia noted the mainstream media’s lack of coverage. Suspecting repression of the press, Garcia said journalists at Standing Rock, “who are there to reveal the truth of what is happening,” have been increasingly targeted by police.
To fill the void left by corporate news sources, Garcia views these protests as “doing a tremendous job of drawing attention to this issue … awareness is the key to solving problems.”
Beyond environmental and health concerns, protesters worry for their safety as police enforcement intensifies. At the frontlines, several accounts of violent aggression against peaceful protesters have been reported, which Garcia said includes injuries from attack dogs, pepper spray, tasers, and even rubber bullets.
By hosting the protest this Saturday, “Keep it Clean Santa Barbara wishes to make everyone in our community aware of the violent treatment protesters are facing,” explained Garcia.
Originally planning to pass the pipeline through Bismarck, capital of North Dakota, developers swiftly rerouted it to Standing Rock due to concern for the city’s water supply. The Sioux have now fought almost two years to receive equivalent environmental justice and protection as their neighbors.
Garcia, feeling privileged to have grown up in Santa Barbara, declares that she “will not stand for environmentally dangerous infrastructures to be built in my backyard nor anyone else’s.”
In regards to the recent presidential election, Garcia urges fellow activists “to come together and fight harder than ever before.” Donald Trump, who she considered “another obstacle in our way to preserving the planet,” had financial ties with Energy Transfer Partners throughout his campaign. Despite her view of Trump as a potential hindrance to environmentalism, Garcia optimistically told The Bottom Line “we will not let [his presidency] stop us.”
On behalf of Keep it Clean Santa Barbara, Garcia invited the entire community to use their voice against environmental injustice.
“I encourage every member of the Santa Barbara community to become actively involved with the issues our planet is facing today. Empower yourself by becoming more aware,” said Garcia. “You can take the first step by joining our march in Solidarity with Standing Rock on Nov. 19.”