If those attempting to build the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) hoped that the protests against the pipeline and those funding it would fizzle out in 2017, they would have watched in despair at the events which unfolded at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday.
As the 70,000 or so fans watched the Minnesota Vikings play the Chicago Bears, high above their heads two anti-Dakota Access pipeline activists unfurled a banner with a short simple message: “US Bank, DIVEST, #NoDAPL.”
The two activists, Karl Zimmerman, 32, and Sen Holiday, 26, rappelled from two large steel rafters in the roof during the second quarter of the game. Although the protest did not stop the game, several rows of seats below were cleared as a precaution.
The protest went viral on social media.
Sen Holiday outlined the reason for the protest: “We are here today at the U.S. Bank Stadium in solidarity with water protectors from standing rock. We are urging US Bank to divest from the Dakota Access pipeline, a project threatening the tribe’s clean water supply.”
Zimmerman added: “The pipeline is dangerous for any community it passes through. It wasn’t safe for the residents of Bismark and its not safe for the Standing Rock Sioux either”.
“I hope (the protest) will get more people talking about the pipeline,” Zimmerman also told USA Today. “The construction needs to stop. We just can’t keep building these pipelines that continue to leak, spoiling waterways and poisoning the ecology around disadvantaged populations.”
The US Bank was singled out due to its large $175 million line of credit given to Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline.
Sunday was a particularly symbolic day for Energy Partners, the company building the pipeline, as it was the original deadline for the project to be finished. In filings submitted last year, Energy Partners “committed to complete, test and have DAPL in service” by the start of 2017. And if this deadline was missed, then its shipping partners had a “right to terminate their commitments”.
But after months of protests by thousands of first nations and others, the Obama Administration eventually called a temproary halt to the pipeline around the Standing Rock reservation whilst alternative routes are being evaluated.
As this process continues, so do the protests.
After several hours both Zimmerman and Holiday were arrested for trespassing and burglary, which are both gross misdemeanors. A third person, Carolyn Feldman, was arrested on lesser charges. All three were released on bail yesterday.
The protest continues a strategy to try and persuade the pipeline’s financial backers to disinvest, which is starting to have some success. Back in November last year, the largest bank in Norway, DNB, announced it that it had sold its assets in DAPL, which was seen as a major victory for those fighting the pipeline.
Since then another Norwegian Fund, the Odin Fund Management, has sold $23.8m worth of shares invested in companies behind the pipeline, and the Swedish bank Nordea has said it will no longer support the pipeline if the demands of the Standing Rock tribe were not met.
Just before Christmas, OCI and other environmental groups also put out a petition asking for people to help demand that the banks #DefundDAPL.
You can sign the petition here.