Holding signs and banners and chanting “Oil Kills,” protesters in Atlanta on Tuesday shouted support for Native American activists trying to stop construction of a North Dakota pipeline they say will desecrate sacred land and pollute water.
The protests against the Dakota Access pipeline have drawn international attention, sparking a renewal of Native American activism and prompting the U.S. government to block its construction on federal land, even as the company building the line expressed its commitment to the project on Tuesday.
“We were all moved by the spirit to be here,” said Linda James Thomas, 59, a Native American who said she attended at the request of the Georgia State Tribe of the Cherokee. “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Dakota.”
Protests were scheduled throughout the day in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and numerous other cities. Previous protests have drawn celebrities including actresses Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon, and on Tuesday U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a former Democratic U.S. presidential candidate, was slated to attend a rally in the nation’s capital.
Last week, Obama administration, responding to the issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux, whose land runs about a half-mile south of the pipeline’s route, said it would temporarily halt construction on federal land. Acting moments after a federal judge denied the tribe’s request for a halt to construction, three federal agencies announced the administration’s plan and asked the company building it to refrain from construction on private land as well.
On Tuesday, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, whose Dakota Access subsidiary is building the pipeline, said in a letter to employees it was committed to the project.
The letter did not address the federal agencies’ request for a temporary halt of construction. But company officials said they would meet with federal administrators to better understand concerns.
“We are committed to completing construction and safely operating the Dakota Access Pipeline within the confines of the law,” Kelcy Warren, Energy Transfer Partners’ chairman and chief executive officer, said in the letter. “Concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.”
The 1,100-mile (1,770 km), $3.7 billion pipeline, which is about 60 percent completed, had been originally expected to start up later this year. When fully connected to existing lines, the line would be the first to carry crude oil from the Bakken shale directly to the U.S. Gulf.
Demonstrators in more than 30 U.S. states planned to gather on Tuesday for what activists dubbed on social media a national “Day of Action” against the pipeline. Many used the hashtag #NoDAPL to show their opposition.
Outside the United States, activists said on social media they planned to hold protests in countries including Britain, Spain, South Korea and New Zealand.
Protesters have said the pipeline could leak oil into the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers, on which the tribe relies for water. In North Dakota, protesters have vowed to remain until the project is halted.
(Additional reporting by Catherine Ngai in New York; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis)