Social Media Shapes Dakota Pipeline Discussion

By Maria Allyana Belen, National News Writer

As the protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters continue in opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Social media has become an outlet for supporters all over their world to provide aid in a variety of different ways.

Ho Waste Wakiya Wicasa, one of the many protestors, set up the GoFundMe account which has generated a monetary value of more than one million dollars. The goal of this online campaign had been much less, set at only five thousand dollars. The money has allowed the protestors to resume their encampment on the banks of the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers.

According to CBS News, Wicasa said of the success of his GoFundMe online campaign that “the money goes as quickly as it comes, but without it having been as much as it is, we certainly wouldn’t have been able to be as productive as we have been in the fight.”

The protesters are gearing up for winter in order to continue their encampment until they are able to put an end to the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. They claim the pipeline will harm their natural sources of water and disrupt lands that contain numerous cultural artifacts. As of Friday, October 28, the raised funds have been reduced to a mere $100,000.

When asked about the depleting funds, Brave Bull Allard, a leader of the Standing Sioux Tribe, made the following statement, as documented by CBS News: “I got people to take care of. I got to provide homes for people and blankets, thermal wear, socks, hats and gloves, and food. Right now, we are feeding 670 people.”

The funds have been distributed to provide not only for food and supplies but also for bail money for many of the protestors who have since been arrested. The total number of people who have been arrested since the protests began is 400. 140 of the 400 were arrested on Thursday, October 27 as officers attempted to remove the protestors from private land owned by Energy Transfer Partners. Energy Transfer Partners is the company that is in charge of the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The GoFundMe campaign is not the only money that the protestors are receiving from their supporters that is being used to provide bail for those who have been arrested. An online legal defense fund has accumulated over $655,000 with the primary goal providing the monetary means for those protestors in need of any type of legal defense.

While the social media campaign has primarily been focused on helping to accumulate supplies for the protestors, others on social media have attempted to aid those on site by attempting to confuse the police about the whereabouts of the protestors.

A Facebook post made in late October has asked supporters of the protestors to “check in” to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the primary site of the protests. The rational for this request is that the police have been using Facebook geotags in order to find the whereabouts of protestors, and if tons of people use in the check-in mechanism, it will confuse law enforcement.

The source of the post is unknown since both the Sacred Stone Camp, a group protesting the pipeline alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the legal representation for the Standing Sioux Tribe have denied any association with the post.

In response to these allegations of using Facebook as a means to target protestors, the County Sheriff’s Department made the following statement to Slate news outlet saying that they do “not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location. This claim/rumor is absolutely false.”

Even though the Facebook check-ins may not directly aid the supporters, they show the numbers of their supporters on Facebook. Moreover, it allows the story of their protests to further circulate online to a wider audience, as evidenced by their celebrity supporters from all over the world.

Irish star Sarah Greene has showed her support by posting a picture on her Instagram account with a link to a petition against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Chris Hemsworth, notable for playing Thor in the Marvel movies, has also posted his support on using this social media platform while on set of the latest installment of the popular franchise.

As documented by Entertainment Weekly, Hemsworth made the following comment about his support for the protestors: “Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water.”

In his statement, Mr. Hemsworth also apologized for what many perceived as cultural appropriation during a New Year’s Eve party when he dressed in Native American garb. As of November 4, Hemsworth’s post has garnered over 389,000 likes and almost 3,000 comments, as well as gratitude from fellow actors Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo, who have long since been supporters of this protest. Woodley’s own account publicly streamed arrests made by police while leaving with fellow protestors. With all of this online support, many people wonder if this will have an impact on the decision on those who have the power to end the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

President Obama has recently made statements discussing a possible reroute from the original plans which Energy Transfer Partners has publicly denied. The fight continues for the Standing Sioux Tribe and their recently amassed online supporters.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 8th print edition.

Contact Allyana at

mariaallyana.belen@student.shu.edu

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