Rain didn’t deter about 50 students from marching through campus at noon on Feb. 2 to speak out against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Protesters across all UCs encouraged their schools to divest from companies Energy Transfer Equity, who financially support the pipeline.
UC Santa Cruz’s event was organized by the Student Alliance of North American Indians (SANAI) and Fossil Free UC. SANAI has held fundraisers in the past, sending profits directly to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on the border of North and South Dakota, where DAPL will be constructed.
According to a joint statement released by the two student-run organizations, the UC currently invests more than three million dollars in companies supporting DAPL and over two billion dollars in fossil fuels.
“I’m glad that there’s a good turnout, especially now,” said fifth-year student, human biology major and SANAI co-chair Erica Green. “This is not just a native thing. This is for Indians, this is for our whole community and our whole nation. It’s going to affect us all.”
Plans for the construction of DAPL through the Missouri River were halted by then-President Barack Obama in early December, prompting the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the area instead. On Jan. 24, four days after assuming office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order advancing construction on the pipeline.
Despite the current administration’s unwavering stance on the issue, Green remains hopeful protests like Thursday’s will bring about change. “No matter what happens, rain or shine, we’re all here supporting something we truly believe in.”
The main focuses of Thursday’s event were Energy Transfer Partners, President Trump and UC regents, particularly Regent Richard Sherman. Sherman serves as the board’s investments subcommittee chair and directs UC investments. The directness of the protest’s criticisms lent to the increased feeling of urgency.
“This time around I, for one, am more tired,” said environmental studies major and SANAI co-chair Raymond Lebeau. Last year, SANAI lead a similar peaceful demonstration consisting of about 200 students to show support for protesters in Standing Rock.
“Our initial protest was just about UCSC students standing in solidarity,” Lebeau said. “But this one is saying ‘This is the action the UCs collectively need to take,’ and urging for a divestment.”