Eight environmental activists were arrested as part of a demonstration in Montpelier, Vermont, aimed at showing support for Native American people fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This weekend, opponents of the nearly 1,200 mile, $3.7-billion Dakota Access Pipeline cheered a decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, which denied an easement key to construction.
The pipeline was designed to transport crude oil from fields in North Dakota.
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For months, Native Americans and their allies have been very concerned the project is so close to land the Standing Rock Sioux consider sacred. They’ve also warned a break or spill could harm water quality.
In Montpelier Monday, demonstrators celebrated that permit denial, and participated in a traditional Native American ceremony in which they prayed for the planet.
“Water is life for everyone,” said Beverly Little Thunder, a Standing Rock tribal member who now lives in Vermont. “And coming together like this in our own communities is the one thing we can do to help those people in Standing Rock, because it’s a collective prayer, it’s not a prayer for one person.”
However, the group of demonstrators knew the celebration could be short-lived.
President-elect Donald Trump has voiced support for projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline, and other backers have insisted it would benefit local economies along its route.
“It’s a victory,” demonstrator Catherine Cadden said of the decision about the easement. “And keep your boots on, because we’re not done yet.”
The demonstrators also called on TD Bank to stop funding the pipeline. Several protesters entered a bank branch in downtown Montpelier, and others blocked a drive-through bank lane at another location in the city.
The protesters said they are disappointed their state banks with a company that also does business with Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the pipeline.
“If we take a look at our taxpayer money and where it’s going, our state treasurer put it into TD Bank,” Cadden said. “And we’re calling on Vermont to take our money out of the bank.”
In response to the protests Monday, TD Bank issued the following statement:
“As a proponent of responsible energy development, TD works closely with clients, local communities, aboriginal governments and environmental groups to enhance our understanding of key issues and promote informed dialogue. We support efforts to ensure the sustainability and safety of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) site. And we respect the rights of those who wish to voice their opinions in peaceful protest.
TD has been listening to concerns from the community about DAPL and we will continue to advocate that Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) engage in constructive dialogue and work toward a resolution with community members, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. TD played an active role in helping to secure Foley Hoag LLP, an independent human rights expert, to conduct a review on behalf of the lenders and advise on recommended improvements ETP and Sunoco Logistics can make to their social policies and procedures moving forward.”
Energy Transfer Partners issued a statement following the decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, calling it “purely political.”
Montpelier Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department arrested and released eight demonstrators Monday, according to officers at the scene of the gathering.
The eight demonstrators were accused of trespassing for refusing to leave the lobby of the branch, police explained.
Undeterred, many at the demonstration vowed to continue speaking out against the project and in favor of tribal lands.