Around 200 students gathered in Red Square on Thursday, Nov. 3 to get Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s attention about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Inslee was scheduled to give a speech on the importance of voting in Miller Hall’s collaboration center.
The group cheered, sang and hosted Native American speakers who shared personal fears regarding the situation and encouraged people to join them in their stance.
Following these events, protest speakers invited Governor Inslee to come outside and address the crowd.
“This issue is important because we need to hold the government accountable for the things they do,” sophomore Aisaya Corbray said. “It affects real people, whether they’re in our front yard or in our community or not.”
Wasting no time, the protesters poured into the building while chanting and cheering through megaphones and signs.
“This issue is important because we need to hold the government accountable for the things they do.”
As the crowd quickly filled the collaboration center, the bewildered Inslee spoke on, struggling to make himself audible over the growing shouts and clamoring.
People hung their signs and took stance in the room; Inslee spoke through a microphone and continued his speech on the topic of voting but was quickly derailed.
The crowd demanded Inslee address the issue regarding police brutality of protesters and government subsidization of oil pipelines in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Tensions were high as shouting voices overlapped and cut off parts of Inslee’s speech.
Rod Lyman, a Bellingham painter and protester since 1982, said protesting issues like this is the only way to get points across to lawmakers, especially in modern times.
“We’re breaking treaties and the law,” Lyman said. “This is illegal, but it’s become society’s norm to cover badges, beat up people, pepper-spray old ladies, shut the people up and keep them from protesting.”
As Inslee began to tie the issue it into the larger context of climate change and pollution, protesters called him out.
The crowd urged Inslee to show his support via policy reformation and legal action.
“I thought overall a lot protesters were being a little disrespectful,” senior Aisha Housman said. “I hope he doesn’t take away from it we were being disrespectful, but instead takes from it a lot of young voters stand behind this and that it’s supposed to be a peaceful protest.”
On Inslee’s closing remarks, he restated the importance of voting and encouraged young voters to elect a candidate who will prevent carbon pollution in Washington.
Inslee made his way out of the packed room while a Lummi Nation spokesperson gave comments to the crowd on the importance of uniting for the cause.
Noel Wilks, a junior, didn’t see the protest as effective as others might have.
“What substantial effect did that have?” Wilks said. “I’m curious how many of those students are registered voters.”
Following Inslee’s departure, the protesters marched all the way downtown to continue the movement in front of the Whatcom Democrats Office.