Two weeks after the Democratic Party suffered a devastating defeat, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is back in action – and he’s giving hope to those protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Standing in front of the White House, sanders addressed a group of supporters: “Today we are saying it is time for a new approach to the Native American people, not to run a pipeline through their land,” said the 74 year old democratic socialist. “And we are demanding that sovereign rights of the Native American people be honored and respected.”
Last Tuesday, thousands of activists organized across the nation to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). A group of protesters gathered in front of the White House were joined by the former presidential candidate, who throughout his campaign had highlighted issues facing Native Americans and the importance of addressing climate change.
Since April, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters have joined together in encampments that seek to block the construction of DAPL, which is set to run through tribal land and could pollute the water supply if constructed. This entrenched protest movement grew when the Army Corps of Engineers approved a “fast-track” construction permit despite concerns from those whose land would be affected. Tensions were further inflamed when construction crews cleared land that had been documented as a sacred, historic space. When protesters moved into this area, security officers unleashed attack dogs on the protesters, at least five of whom were injured.
Even as President Obama has acknowledged that he is monitoring the situation, the federal government is still moving forward with its original plan. The support of Senator Sanders, standing in front of the White House where he once hoped to live, added energy and public attention to the struggle for indigenous rights in the United States. Even if the route of the pipeline is changed, its construction still represents a loss in the fight against climate change. Everybody here understands that not only is climate change real, not only is it caused by human behavior, but it is already causing devastating problems in our country and all over this world,” said Senator Sanders. “It is totally insane, and future generations will look back on us now and say, ‘What in God’s name were you doing?’”