Utah activists ‘stand with Standing Rock’ as dozens of protesters arrested

Posted at 9:30 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-02 09:31:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Face-to-face in North Dakota, the interactions between Native Americans and law enforcement personnel in full riot gear streaming on Facebook live show the unrest on the front lines at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation Wednesday.

This comes after North Dakota Representative Kevin Cramer issued a statement saying he was told the Army Corps of Engineers notified Congress it will grant the easement for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

It's a process that President Donald Trump signed an order about last week in order to speed up the approval process.

Local advocates in Utah say the news is disappointing but not surprising to local Native Americans, and they said what is the most heartbreaking is to watch what their brothers and sisters are going through at Standing Rock.

“I've seen those Facebook live videos and I couldn't get through them. Honestly, I couldn't get through them. They were disheartening,” said Moroni Benally, Co-Founder Utah League of Native American Voters.

Moroni Benally was in North Dakota just weeks ago, now he's watching helplessly from hundreds of miles away as his fellow water protectors stand with Standing Rock, protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“It's not about oil; it's about sacred spaces,” Benally said.

The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline would cross four states, running oil to the gulf coast. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the pipeline threatens sacred ground and historical sites as well as putting their water at risk.

Live Facebook video from protesters shows the unrest is growing.

“They're probably running out the camp as we speak right now,” said Carl Moore of PANDOS, Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialog and Organizing Support.

“We need to move forward and do everything we possibly can to literally survive,” Benally said.

The video gives us a glimpse of the National Guard in riot gear surrounding the camp.

“Standing as intimidation to those who are standing at Standing Rock, the camp, I mean, it's disheartening in every way, shape, and form,” Benally said.

Many supporters are upset about how the new administration is handling the issue.

“It just goes to show what Trump is getting at when he says 'make America great again', what he's trying to do is make America 150 years ago or 200 years ago, back when Native Americans got treated like chattel,” Moore said.

Native American advocates in Utah say now more than ever is the time to stand, and they have this message for those at Standing Rock.

“Thank you for your determination and your courage, it means the world to all of us that can't be there,” Benally said.

While Wednesday night was not a formal announcement the pipeline to proceed, those standing for Standing Rock say they believe it's just a hint at what's to come their way shortly. Throughout the past several months, more than 600 people have been arrested. Wednesday night alone saw nearly 80 arrests.