‘Keep it in the ground’: Chicago stands with Standing Rock

A long pipe, meant to represent the Dakota Access Pipeline, was held up by protesters in Chicago Nov. 15

By Metro Reporter

Chicagoans joined protesters across the nation to speak out against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has said would run through sacred sites and burial places and potentially pollute drinking water. 

Hundreds of people gathered at Daley Plaza Nov. 15 and marched to the office of the Army Corps of Engineers, 231 S. LaSalle St., to deliver 50,000 letters demanding the end of the DAPL. As the pipeline route is currently planned, it would run from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. However, President Barack Obama recently announced that the government is looking for ways to reroute the pipeline to protect Native American land.

While there were arrests at protests in other cities, Chicago remained peaceful, with no protesters detained by police. Those involved, who marched alongside a large pipe made to look like a snake, remained on the sidewalk. They played makeshift drums and shouted “water is life,” while burning sage and dancing. People also held signs asking to “break free from fossil fuels” and “keep it in the ground.” 

Brandon Ballard, a 21-year-old renewable energy student at Kankakee Community College, traveled to Chicago from Kankakee, Illinois, to be at the protest, and was pleased with what he saw. 

“This is one of the most beautiful protests I have ever been a part of,” Ballard said. “It’s not violent whatsoever; people are just spreading their message of the corporate elite trying to impose.”

The situation at Standing Rock could drastically affect resources and sacred areas, said Jane Callahan, a 63-year-old retired teacher from Downers Grove, Illinois. She added that she thinks the Sioux tribe’s treaty with the government is being violated by the Army Corps of Engineers and oil companies.

“We need to stand behind them because it’s critical not only to their rights and their treaty, but also for everyone else’s protection of their water,” Callahan said. “It includes everybody from [Standing Rock, North Dakota] to Illinois. We need to stand up to big business and put people over profits . . . I just hope that everybody is listening and we get this accomplished soon.”

Despite a few anti-Donald Trump signs in the crowd, Ogechi Ike, a 22-year-old freelance web designer from Oak Park, Illinois, said she does not think the President-elect is at fault for the pipeline’s support. She pointed out that Obama allowed the pipeline to progress this far, and she thinks Hillary Clinton would have allowed its construction.

Ike said she thinks the pipeline has been able to get this far in the construction process because of a lack of attention to this issue.

Larry Coble, a 51-year-old volunteer at 350 Chicago, an organization that fights climate change, said besides showing its support at the protest, 350 Chicago is sending a lawyer to help the Sioux Tribe fight the construction of the pipeline. 

Coble, who has a 13-year-old son and is concerned about the effects major environmental disasters will have on his life, added that he gets involved so when his son is older, he can take advantage of all of the opportunities adults now have without effects from climate change.

“I had to mourn that [climate change] is happening and that my child may not have a good future because of it,” Coble said, referring to the effects the pipeline will have on future generations. “This is the most important issue facing humanity right now.”