Outside of the Army Corps building in downtown Los Angeles, protesters gathered Monday to deliver a message: They will not be silenced.
"We have the native americans being pushed off their land … The fact that the military is coming in and pushing them off their land, that's a very scary thing," said Rhapsody Johnson, a protestor in downtown Los Angeles on Monday.
Since April, protesters, who have described themselves as water protectors, have gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota in an attempt to stop the development of a crude oil pipeline that they say would rip through sacred land, destroy natural resources and open the door to devastating social and environmental impacts.
Since 2014, Energy Transfer Partners has been developing the route for the Dakota Access pipeline, which was originally directed through the Missouri River, just 10 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota. After the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the environmental risk was too high and could potentially endanger critical drinking water sources, the route was re-evaluated. Despite resistance from tribal leaders, the pipeline was redirected away from Bismarck and instead routed through the Standing Rock Reservation.
The Army Corps recently released a statement demanding the protesters leave their camp, located just north of the Cannonball River, by Dec. 5.
In their statement, the Army Corps said that their request is aimed at protecting the general public from violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement and from the harsh weather approaching. The warning released states, "Any person found to be on the Corps' lands north of the Cannonball River after December 5, 2016, will be considered trespassing and may be subject to prosecution under federal, state, and local laws."
Sandy Tolan, journalist and professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has made several trips to Standing Rock this fall and has recently returned to continue covering the protest. He said he is impressed by the passion fueling the Standing Rock Movement.
"It's amazing that what started as a horse ride with a few hundred Native Americans, through the snow and ending at the banks of the Cannonball River, with just two people, setting up teepees … and they started praying for people to come and help them in this struggle against this pipeline," Tolan said. "That is a story that has really captured people's imaginations … This small gathering grew to a small city of five or six thousand."
All throughout the country, rallies and protests have been popping up in support of Standing Rock, including here in Los Angeles. On Sunday, there was a march in Washington, D.C., to bring to light anti-pipeline sentiments.
Despite national support, Tolan said the presence of law enforcement in Standing Rock is distressing.
"During the demonstrations, the police force is really evident. Hundreds of officers come out in riot gear. The demonstrations are really peaceful, very raucous but not physically violent but people are getting arrested and charged with rioting," Tolan said.
"It's clear that the police and the government of the state of North Dakota really want this pipeline to go through and they consider the natives and their supporters, the environmental activists to be an impediment to the progress to the pipeline, which clearly they have been."
The size of this pipeline is significant, especially when considering the environmental impact and the global contribution to climate change.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, which is planned to go on line early in 2017, will carry anywhere from 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois, according to Energy Transfer Partner's website. "That's the equivalent of the entire output of a single oil exporting country," Tolan said. "It would add the equivalence of 22 million cars per year on the road."
Despite little talk on environmental issues at during the election, President-elect Donald Trump has been loud and clear about his position on pushing investment into fossil fuels. While he hasn't specified on whether or not he is in support of the the Dakota Access Pipeline, he laid out his intentions to move forward with the Keystone Pipeline in his 100 Day plan.
Although Trump recently sold off his stock in Energy Transfer Partners, his previous financial relationship with the oil industry has many people concerned about what his presidency could mean for the development of the pipeline.
Annenberg Media reached out to Energy Transfer Partners but they were unavailable for comment.