Drums, flutes, clapping echo through downtown pipeline protest

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters in downtown Austin. Dec. 1, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
Dakota Access Pipeline protesters in downtown Austin. Dec. 1, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Energy Transfer Partners at the corner of Guadalupe and 15th streets Thursday morning.

They’re calling for the business to be denied its building permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dr. Tane Ward, director of Equilibrio, a decolonial organization project, says the protesters rallied with song, prayer and speeches for two main reasons: to close their accounts with Wells Fargo, one of the financiers of the pipeline project, and to show solidarity with protesters in North Dakota resisting the pipeline construction, as well as pipelines in West Texas owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

“This is a native-led movement,” Ward said. “It’s united in prayer, it’s united thinking about our future, what we want for our children.” Ward objects to what he calls the violent force against peaceful protests seen in recent weeks, including tear gas canisters, water hoses, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, tasers and bean bag rounds. “This pipeline is totally unnecessary, this oil is totally dirty,” he said.

A downtown protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline was filled with music, prayers and clapping (KXAN Photo)
A downtown protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline was filled with music, prayers and clapping (KXAN Photo)

“Right now the government is giving a handout to these companies to be able to do these type of development projects.” He wants law enforcement to withdraw their forces from the peaceful protests in North Dakota to protect the Standing Rock Sioux.

On Monday, protesters in North Dakota were told to leave their encampment by Dec. 5. The Corps said last week in a letter to Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to public access Dec. 5 for “safety concerns.”

A pipeline protest on Congress Avenue on Nov. 15 closed downtown streets as marchers made their way to Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase offices. One man at the protest wearing a black handkerchief urged others to smash the bank windows, but organizers from the Sierra Club calmed him down, telling KXAN’s Phil Prazan that was not their message and they didn’t want any arrests or violence.