The battle at Standing Rock started all over again when Trump signed the executive order his first week in office on January 24, 2017,to renew construction on the Dakota Pipeline. Along with many other major cities, protests in support of the water protectors began in Philly in August 2016. I took part in meetings in September that organized the Bank sit-ins, joined numerous mass marches, and I even carried the massive “Water is Life” banner in Philly on November 7, when Clinton and Obama hosted a concert with Bruce Springsteen. But in 2016 both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump failed to utilize the momentum of the growing cause at Standing Rock, while both of them refused to speak on the issue, unlike Bernie Sanders, who I saw speak on the issue with a crowd of a thousand people in D.C. in September.
So it was nothing new going to a NoDAPL rally in Philly on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2017, other than instead of having a Democratic Liberal as a President, we had Trump, who doesn’t even pretend to care about the interest of the people. As an example, immediately after Trump signed the executive order he was asked by a reporter if he had any comment about the Standing Rock protesters and supporters. His response summed up everything about him as summed up by CNBC: “Trump put his head down, pursed his lips and looked in the opposite direction. He then responded to a question about when he expected to make a Supreme Court nomination.”
On February 1, one day after federal officials suggested that the government might soon approve the last step of the pipeline, 76 water protectors were arrested, including friends of mine who’ve remained at the camp since November, after trying to establish a new camp site near the pipeline. On February 8, the Army Corps of Engineers granted the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to complete construction.
The hundred people who showed up on Valentines Day at Thomas Paine Plaza, across the street from City Hall, knew that the Army Corps planned on removing people from the campsite by February 22. Leaders at Standing Rock called for supportive actions across the nation as well as asking people to stand and fight with them in North Dakota. Veterans have returned to Standing Rock in the prior two weeks. News Mic painted an accurate picture on Valentines Day with the headline: “Standing Rock prepares for what could be its last stand against the Dakota Access pipeline.”
“Emergency Rally for Standing Rock” was the name of the event organized by Philly with Standing Rock-Sioux Defenders. At 8:00 A.M. people gathered at Thomas Paine Plaza and waved banners and signs at the city traffic. An hour later we heard speeches by some people who were on the front line at Standing Rock. Shortly thereafter we proceeded to march in the streets and protested outside of four different Wells Fargo banks.We protested Wells Fargo not just because it is one of the banks funding the pipeline, but because Seattle City Council successfully removed Wells Fargo funding from the pipeline in its city only a few weeks earlier. Each time we stopped at one of the Wells Fargo banks to speak, Philly police lined up their bikes in front of the door to prevent activists from going inside, although customers were allowed to go in and out. Along the march route, however, we passed by several other banks, such as Citizens Bank and Santander Bank, and police even blocked those entrances. For such a small group of people we were able to successfully shut down nearly eight banks for a few minutes each.
As the final week approaches for those at Standing Rock, we must wait and see if protests erupt across the nation in support of the water protectors. Perhaps we will see the revival of bank sit-ins. Perhaps politicians can join the fight as well, as the ACLU wrote in its headline on Valentines Day: “It’s Time for Members of Congress to Show Up and Stand Up for Standing Rock.”