Protestors gathered for simultaneous demonstrations in Reading and Bethlehem on Sunday, Dec. 11, to add their voices to those across the country and around the world calling on the federal government to permanently block construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
Last week’s announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers that it would deny Energy Transfer Partners the easement it needed to continue construction of the pipeline as planned represented a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and the thousands of supporters who have gathered in North Dakota. However, the Army Corps plans are to reroute the pipeline; the protesters’ goal is to stop it. In addition, Energy Transfer Partners plans to continue construction and the incoming Trump administration is supportive of the company and its’ plans.
“The fight is far from over,” says Karen Feridun, Kutztown, lead organizer of the protest in Bethlehem. “The thousands who have subjected themselves to brutal treatment, who have suffered injuries, and who have braved blizzards to stay there aren’t interested in seeing the pipeline rerouted to someone else’s community. They won’t back down until the pipeline is scrapped. We’re here today to let them know we are with them now and for as long as it takes.”
Rallies were held at the Penn Street Bridge in Reading and the plaza next to the Bethlehem Public Library.
“We gathered to Stand with Standing Rock because our community recognizes that the injustice we have been witnessing in North Dakota is just the tip of the iceberg of our government defending industrial interests over human rights. We must now stand up to protect our families and children against contamination of our water, our communities and our democracy,” said Darree Sicher, Kempton, lead organizer of the protest in Berks County. “Pipelines are planned through Berks county - we have been asleep while corporations poison our homes and landscapes. Now, it’s time to rise up to protect our communities, our water supply and our future. We are Standing with Standing Rock because we ARE Standing Rock.”
“Just because the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline doesn’t mean our fight is over. The First Nations have brought pipeline proliferation to the national spotlight and it is up to us not only to prevent this pipeline from being installed on their sacred lands, but to insure it will not be installed at all or that this decision will not be overturned by the forthcoming Trump administration,” said Tara Zrinski, one of the organizers of the Bethlehem protest.
The Dakota Access pipeline project has ties to Pennsylvania worth noting. Sunoco Logistics, the company behind the controversial Mariner East pipeline projects that span 17 counties in Pennsylvania, including Berks County, is purchasing Energy Transfer Partners and has been owned by Energy Transfer Equity for some time.
In addition, Pennsylvania’s pension funds are invested in Energy Transfer Partners. More than 200 current and retired public school employees have started a divestment campaign and took their case to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) meeting in Harrisburg last week to call for divestment of all its fossil fuel holdings, including those related to Dakota Access.