As people head home for the Christmas vacation to be with their loved ones, spare a thought for the one thousand or so water protectors that are braving bitterly freezing cold temperatures and blizzards in North Dakota to continue what has become the iconic protest of 2016 against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Although the Standing Rock camp once boasted some 10,000 people at the height of the protests, including thousands of veterans, many have left in the last few days.
But 1,000 remain and plan to stay through the sub-zero temperatures of the bitterly cold North Dakota winter. Already some have been stricken down with pneumonia and have had to take refuge in local health centres.
People are worried that if they leave, either Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, or the new Trump Administration, could try and sneak the pipeline through. “I’ve seen some of my friends leave but I will be here until the end and will stand up to Trump if he decides to approve the permit,” Victor Herrald of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, who has been at the camp since August, told Reuters.
There is still pressure from the authorities to clear the camp, though. According to the Hill, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is pushing to get the camp cleared. Yesterday he met with Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault, and in a statement said the tribal leadership should “work with other state leaders to get people to leave the illegal campsite on Army Corps of Engineers land.”
Meanwhile some Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors, who might have been spending Christmas in jail after being arrested back in the summer, found their trial postponed yesterday after the judge learned that not all the ten defendants, aged from 23 to 57, had received the evidence from the prosecutor. Their trial has now been re-scheduled for the end of January. They are charged with disorderly conduct which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and $1,500 in fines.
So this is a fight that will continue into 2017. This is a fight that is not over yet. And if you want to give a festive gift to the campaign, remember you can disinvest you money from the seventeen banks who are still backing the pipeline.
Yesterday, OCI and other groups, put out a petition asking for people to help demand that the banks #DefundDAPL. There is no doubt that public pressure can force banks to confront the reality that they are backing companies who are openly violating human rights, defying the rule of law, undermining the regulatory process and threatening our planet with climate change.
To find out how to disinvest, go here.