Hundreds of people protesting construction of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline packed Minneapolis City Hall on Friday to voice their opposition to the deployment of about 30 Hennepin County sheriff’s personnel to Standing Rock in North Dakota.
Local American Indian leaders, state representatives and members of the faith community joined the protesters in front of the entrance to City Hall near the Metro Transit light-rail station. The four-state, thousand-mile pipeline is being built by a Texas company to carry North Dakota crude to a shipping point in Illinois, prompting protests led by members of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., called on Minnesota protesters to lift their voices amid the blaring of the train horns warning them to stand back from the lines.
“The world is watching what you are doing,” he said.
Local American Indian leaders asked protesters to fill out a ballot containing the question, “Do you want a sheriff who protects corporate interests while abusing people who are defending our water?” Sheriff’s Office personnel collected the ballots from protesters in front of Sheriff Richard Stanek’s office.
Demonstrators held signs reading “No DAPL” and demanded that Hennepin County withdraw its deputies from North Dakota. State Rep. Karen Clark, D-Minn., read a letter to Stanek asking that deputies be brought home.
Terry Fiddler of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also spoke, saying social media has drawn a lot of attention to the Standing Rock protest and led to an awakening of concern about water and treaty rights.
“The police department is paid by our taxes,” he said. “Yet they are fighting for the big corporations, not for their people.”
After marching around the corner, the protesters filed inside City Hall. At one point, they lined all three stories of the City Hall’s lobby.
Although protests in Minnesota remained tame, demonstrations in North Dakota escalated through the week before fading some on Friday. Police arrested more than 140 people Thursday while forcibly removing protesters from private land near the pipeline.
As protesters cleared out of Minneapolis City Hall Friday night, a few stayed behind, including Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano for a sit-in outside Stanek’s office. They said they were willing to be arrested for their cause. No one was arrested, a Minneapolis police spokeswoman said later.
Savannah Bissonette, 9, and her family were among those attending the protest.
“What am I going to drink when I’m older?” Savannah asked, referring to protesters’ contention that the pipeline will contaminate water supplies. “Am I going to drink pop and rot away?”
Beatrice Dupuy • 612-673-1707