Over 70 students and community members formed a “Human Oil Spill” in Hirst Lounge Tuesday afternoon to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)—a 1,172-mile underground pipeline designed to transport crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken region into Illinois—and UR’s investments in the fossil fuel industry.
Protesters dressed in black from head to toe and lay on the floor for 15 minutes with posters that read “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” and “We are Water,” while members of Grassroots and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) spoke to the crowd.
Sophomore and Grassroots Activism Chair Henry Scharfe had two messages to deliver—one to President-elect Donald Trump, the other to University President Joel Seligman.
“We refuse to be complacent,” he said, addressing Trump. “You represent the entire nation now. We expect you to protect environmental laws. We expect you to respect the Paris Climate Agreement. We expect you to respect and acknowledge indigenous land.”
To Seligman, he added, “The time has come for you to do the same.”
The demonstration was one of many protests nationwide in observance of #NoDAPL Day of Action, a day of solidarity to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which contends that its sacred land and water supply could be compromised by the pipeline’s construction.
Sophomore and Vice-President of the Native American Student Association Ruth Dan empathized with the tribe.
“I am a Yupik person,” she said. “We are indigenous to the west part of Alaska, and we have lived there for thousands of years. As ice melts, we lose more and more of our shoreline, thus communities are being forced to move. They are the United States’ first climate change refugees.”
Junior and SDS Co-President Laura Cowie-Haskell called on students to stand up against social injustice.
“Kicking people out of the land they owned and live on is not emblematic of University policies,” she said.
To further encourage UR to divest from the fossil fuel industry, Grassroots and SDS have formed the group UR Fossil Free. The group plans on reaching out to alumni and students to receive support and raise awareness of its goal.
“We were very pleased with the turnout, particularly because there were so many community members, something we weren’t expecting,” said Julianne Kapner, a sophomore and Grassroots fall programming chair. “We hope not to let this momentum die.”