Pipeline Protest

Hilary Parker, a protest organizer, speaks to a crowd of about 200 people in solidarity with the Standing Rock protesters on Tuesday outside of the Gallatin County Courthouse. Protests took place in more than 100 cities worldwide to demand the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refuse to grant a final permit for the pipeline.

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About 200 people crowded the steps of the Gallatin County Courthouse in Bozeman on Tuesday afternoon as part of a national day of solidarity in support of groups protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.

Waving signs that read “We can’t drink oil,” “Water is life” and “Stand with Standing Rock” — a reference to the the American Indian reservation at the front line of the protests — the throng sang, chanted and cheered on several speakers.

“This is not just about Native people, this is about everyone. Recognize that water is important and think about what it feels like to have that water threatened,” said Connie Brownotter, a Montana State University student born in Standing Rock. “With this pipeline threatening our water supply, our way of life is threatened. I want to be able to continue to call Standing Rock my home.”

At issue is the 1,100-mile, $3.8 billion proposed pipeline, designed to carry oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region to Illinois. The planned route would take the 30-inch diameter pipe across the Missouri River north of Standing Rock — near Cannon Ball, North Dakota — which critics have argued would threaten the area’s drinking water supply and destroy cultural and sacred sites.

Tribe allies and protesters have been occupying land in the area since the summer. More than 400 people have been arrested during clashes with police, according to a recent UN report.

On Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a federally mandated review of the project. The agency concluded that more study and consultation with local groups is necessary before it decides whether to issue an easement allowing the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, to cross under the Missouri.

Following a wave of public outcry last week, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office rescinded its plan to send deputies to assist with the protests, a decision that was lauded at Tuesday’s gathering.

“That’s what democracy looks like,” said Hilary Parker, an organizer for the event. “That’s what is great about this; it’s the community coming together. It gives people a sense of positive motion.”

Despite a brief downpour, the hour-long rally attracted a diverse crowd, including students from Bozeman High School and MSU, some of whom had recently returned from Standing Rock. Several groups helped organize the action, including Gallatin Progressive Action Network and Montana National Organization for Women.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” said Brownotter, 20. “Unity is there and it’s amazing. It showed that this community is passionate and thoughtful.”

In addition to participating in the protest, which mirrored a slew of similar events around the globe, organizers urged the crowd to contact their local and state representatives as well as donate money for legal funds and supplies for those on the reservation.

“What happens in one area affects the whole world,” said Belgrade resident Cheryl Kai. “We need to stand up to these corporations and say that this is not OK with us. This is the time to stand up, because if it’s not us, who will?”

“This is an American issue,” added Bozeman resident Alycia Patencio. “Tell your friends, tell your families, tell your neighbors. We need to stop it right now.”

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Kendall can be reached at lkendall@dailychronicle.com. Kendall is on Twitter at @lewdak

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