RACINE — The fight against the North Dakota Access Pipeline has come to Racine.
Holding signs reading “Respect our tribal lands” and “Protect our Fresh Water,” more than 25 people gathered at the corner of North Memorial Drive and State Street on Thursday to protest the completion of the 1,172-mile-long pipeline, which, if completed as planned, would run beneath the Missouri River reservoir that provides water to members of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
They were also there to express solidarity with the thousands of protesters – both tribal members and other activists – who have congregated at the protest camp first established by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in April. In recent weeks, clashes between law enforcement and protesters have increased, and some protesters have been sprayed with both rubber bullets and cold water. Organized by the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice, the protest was part of a Global Day of Action organized by Standing Rock protesters, which encouraged people across the world to host their own protests against the pipeline.
“Welcome human beings and social justice radicals,” said coalition member Ken Yorgan, kicking things off as protesters did their best to keep warm in the cold, drizzly weather.
The main speaker at the event was Kathy Long, a sister with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters in Waukegan. Long was among eight Dominican nuns who traveled to the Standing Rock protest camp earlier this month.
“How many years do we have to disrespect the rights of our native people in this country?” asked Long, who wants to see the pipeline stopped.
The $3.8 billion pipeline to carry North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois is nearly complete, aside from the stretch beneath a Missouri River reservoir. Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline will be safe, but the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says the project threatens the drinking water on its nearby reservation as well as some American Indian cultural sites.
People from around the country have taken up the tribe’s cause, with thousands of them congregating at the protest camp. ETP has refused to reroute the pipeline.
Police have made nearly 575 arrests since August during clashes at the protesters’ main camp and at protests in and around the North Dakota state capital, Bismarck, about 50 miles to the north.
Noting the mounting arrests, Long encouraged people to donate money to help the protesters with legal expenses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.