Crowds of people marched on the sidewalks of downtown Bellingham holding signs that said things like, “Protect the Protectors” and “Keep Violence out of Standing Rock” on Friday, Oct. 28.
Roughly 250 people, including members of the Lummi Nation, gathered in solidarity to march with Native American tribes fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It began near Holly Street and Magnolia Street by Rite Aid, and ended near Fred Meyer on Lakeway Drive.
Protesters have set up makeshift camps in North Dakota on the land the proposed pipeline would occupy. The pipeline is projected to run for 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, but passes directly through land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The front-line camp at the Dakota Access Pipeline was surrounded Thursday and raided by police and National Guard officers.
The Bellingham march was a collaboration between various community organizers, students and other advocates, some of which gave speeches denouncing the violence in the Midwest.
According to Emma Bigongiari, a member of WWU Students for Anti-racist Action, she and her friends decided to become part of the solution after those protecting the Sioux land in North Dakota called for national solidarity against this issue.
“Dakota Access Pipeline is a reminder that colonization isn’t over,” Bigongiari said. “When the police and the national guard, who are forces of the federal government, raided the camps yesterday, they were carrying batons and guns, and there were military-styled vehicles. It was a very menacing presence.”
Participants also stopped at corporate banks to pass on letters expressing concern.
“There are a lot of institutions including banks who are funding the pipeline,” Bigongiari said. “Yesterday, there were a lot of people who chose to close their accounts with banks like Chase and Bank of America because those things are funding the pipeline.”
Sam Wershow, a graduate student at Western Washington University, attended the event after hearing about the Dakota Access Pipeline issue from friends.
“We have to turn this big ship around. The rights of corporations cannot be so strongly protected by our militarized police and highway patrol,”
“What I hope to accomplish here is raising awareness. I feel like this is an issue that’s been underplayed and under-covered by mainstream media sources,” Wershow said.
Wershow hopes to connect with people and get involved directly in North Dakota with other activists.
Alice Werkemas, a member of Occupy Bellingham, traveled from Lynden by bus to take part in the march. The 80-year-old North Dakota native said she missed her granddaughter’s orchestra performance because her passion against the Dakota Access Pipeline is her priority.
“This is our time and we’ve got to stand up,” Werkemas said.
Werkemas was horrified after reading about the treatment towards the protesters, namely dogs being let loose on protesters, and held a large sign with her friend that said, “Treaties are Supreme Law.”
“We have to turn this big ship around. The rights of corporations cannot be so strongly protected by our militarized police and highway patrol,” Werkemas said.
For junior Bailey Kuntz, his hope for the march was for the media to shed light on the issue at hand.
“My part in today is to make sure that everyone gets the word out and that we recognize real issues rather than disassociate ourselves from them. It’s important to realize that everything that is fathomable in this world should be considered,” Kuntz said.
The march was a successful action by being a loud presence, according to Bigongiari.