It is a moving scene and a distressing one. Enduring the harsh winds and bitter cold of a blizzard, the protesters encamped at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline are standing strong, chanting “water is life” in the Lakota Sioux language, and demanding the preservation of their lands and the precious natural resources located there.
The pipeline clearly never underwent an appropriate review in consultation with nearby residents and the tribal leaders who raised serious concerns about the pipeline’s location. It has the potential to cause devastating, longterm environmental damage, not least of all to Lake Oahe, a major source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Tribe. The construction would cut through ancestral burial grounds. And the harsh treatment of peaceful protesters near the construction site by private security contractors and law enforcement officials, who used tear gas, pepper spray, attack dogs, and even water hoses in sub-freezing temperatures, caused unnecessary pain and suffering while violating free speech and First Amendment rights of our fellow Americans.
The Democratic Party was proud to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their cause. During our most recent Rules and Bylaws and Executive Committee Meeting, Democrats unanimously passed an official resolution expressing our solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The Democratic Party has also made it clear in our party platform that we believe we have a profound moral and legal responsibility to Indian tribes and we will not waver. Democrats believe that we must respect the property rights of Native and rural landowners, that we must respect the First Amendment rights of protesters and the sovereign rights of Native American Tribes, and that we must invest in rural America in smarter ways that create more jobs in the green energy economy.
Economic development, job creation, and private enterprise are critical parts of our shared American prosperity, but they should not come at the expense of the health and well-being of our neighbors.
Although the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama administration made the right call this weekend and effectively halted the project’s construction for the time being, the fight to defeat the project is still far from over. Donald Trump, who under mounting criticism over his conflict of interest only recently sold his stock in the company building the pipeline, has already pledged to overturn the Army Corps’ decision.
The case raises serious questions about how Trump may use the power of the presidency to further his business interests. But beyond these conflict of interest issues, this project has been especially troubling for how the corporation in question has stepped on the rights of ordinary people.
As we look to the future, Democrats will continue to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, we will oppose any corporation that attempts to infringe upon the rights of ordinary Americans, and we will hold Donald Trump accountable if abuses the power of our highest office to trample on those rights for personal financial gain.