Protestors spend lunch break fighting Dakota Access

A group of about 25 people spent their lunch breaks standing on a street corner in front of the Federal Building chanting “Water is life!” Tuesday afternoon. They stood only yards away from Gold Creek, but they weren’t referring to it or any other body of water in Alaska for that matter.

The protest was part of an international day of action, during which demonstrators across the country stood in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and everybody fighting the development of the Dakota Access pipeline, an underground oil pipeline.

“We support the people behind Standing Rock, especially First Nations people who have been here a hell of a lot longer than you or I,” said Marlin Bowles, a retired biologist who participated in the protest Tuesday.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind Dakota Access, says that the pipeline — which will run under sacred tribal land, Lake Oahe and the Missouri River — will not rupture polluting water sources. Thousands of people across the country who attended protests similar to Juneau’s on Tuesday aren’t buying it. Bowles is among them.

“People in charge of these pipelines always deny that there are going to be leaks, but they always happen,” he told the Empire.

Three years ago, an oil pipeline in North Dakota ruptured and dumped 865,000 gallons of oil onto a nearby farm, the New York Times recently reported.

The Army Corps has blocked the construction of the pipeline “on or under Corps land bordering Lake Oahe” until it decides whether to grant Energy Transfer an easement, according to a press release the corps released Monday.

Many of the hundreds of protests held in conjunction with the day of action took place outside of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices, where demonstrators urged the corps to deny the easement.

John Sonin, the organizer of Juneau’s protest, decided not to hold the demonstration at the Army Corps office. It is located in the Mendenhall Valley, and Sonin figured a protest in front of the Federal Building would get more attention.

“It’s more blatant, I guess,” he said in between leading protest chants.

He wasn’t wrong. Between noon and 1 p.m., several people driving by honked and waved in support of the demonstration. At one point, a man on a bike chanted “Can’t drink oil!” as he pedaled by.

The Juneau protest wasn’t directly in front of the Army Corps’ office, but demonstrators didn’t forget their audience.

“I’m here to support Standing Rock and to urge the Army Corps to deny the permits,” said protestor Danielle Redmond. “I’m here because I think this is so important; water is life.”

Redmond didn’t attend the event alone. Her 1-year-old son Teo slept in a sling against her chest as she waved her “Water is Life” sign. She was quick to note that “it’s not his first protest.”

Redmond and others in the crowd, including Sonin and Bowles, expressed a dire sense of urgency for the Obama administration to stop Dakota Access now before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in early next year. Trump, they fear, will not be as receptive to environmental concerns, and he will be less likely to stop the Dakota Access pipeline.

“Once the Trump administration gets in, it’s going to be more difficult,” Bowles said. “Not only will they try to block stuff like this, they’ll try to turn back the clock on things that have already been decided.”

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or

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