By Blaise Scemama @blaisescemama
Eric Licas @vari8shun contributed to the reporting and photography of this story.
Check all the photographs of the protest here.
Parts of Hollywood Blvd have been shut down near the Hollywood and Highland Center in anticipation of the academy awards this Sunday. At the same time, protesters against the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) did some blocking of their own by marching hand in hand through the intersection of Hollywood and Highland on Wednesday, February 22.
Below is an original video of the protest:
Lead by the American Indian Movement of Southern California (AIM SoCal), this demonstration, as well as others held throughout Los Angeles earlier this week, was organized in response to the forced evictions of the resistance camps that occurring right now at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Lydia Ponce, one of the AIM SoCal organizers, repeatedly reminded the crowd gathered in Hollywood that although the evictions have started, they will remain active in solidarity with those being evicted at Standing Rock.
“We’re continuing our prayers here to make sure it reaches their minds and their hearts and their spirits, to let them know that they’re not alone, even at this distance,” Ponce said.
The march concluded in front of the CNN building on Sunset Blvd around 9 p.m. The general sentiment amongst the speakers was that of disappointment in the mainstream media for under-representing the controversy surrounding Standing Rock.
George Funmaker of the Dakota and Hochunk tribe, who has been one of the most active voices at previous rallies, explained the significance of ending the march in front of the CNN building.
“We gathered at CNN, strategically to end there because we want them to start covering these issues that they don’t cover very often,” Funmaker stated.
On February 8, in response to the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers (USACE) decision to greenlight the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Funmaker and AIM SoCal held an emergency protest in front of the USACE’s office in Downtown Los Angeles.
Despite the news that drilling for the pipeline had begun, protesters of the project continued to demonstrate until 8 p.m. that night, marching through Wilshire Blvd., stopping traffic with drum circles and Native American prayer songs.
However spirited the protesters may have been the day the easement was announced, on Monday, February 13, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied a request for an injunction that would have temporarily halted construction, according to an article in the Associated Press.
Attorneys representing the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes have claimed that the project threatened the water supply of 17 million people and the integrity of Sioux cultural sites. In response to the easement, they argued that the very presence of the pipeline would taint the region’s supply of pure water, which is essential to the practice of the Sioux religion.
In the same Associated Press article, lawyers for the company behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), called the recently added religious freedom component of the Tribes’ case a delay tactic. They maintain that the pipeline’s construction and operation would not impinge on the rights or traditions of the Sioux people living in the area.
Boasberg ruled that, so long as oil wasn’t yet flowing through the pipeline, it did not prevent the exercise of regional traditions or religions. However, he said that he would take a closer look at both sides of the argument at a hearing scheduled for Monday, February 27.
A 2016 USACE study determined that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment, and its proponents say it will bring much needed jobs to the area.
Lead activist, Ponce said she was skeptical of the USACE’s findings and that she believed a leak or malfunction of the pipeline would be inevitable. She and other supporters of the Sioux in Dakota, cite the project as a violation of tribal sovereignty.
Other speakers at the Hollywood rally like Katharine Guerrero, who considers herself a native ally, and is indigenous due to her Mexican background, was very outspoken about the possible environmental repercussions of a pipeline such as the one being constructed at Standing Rock.
“There is already a spill, it already happened…there’s already oil going into the missouri river,” said Guerrero. “Those cattle ranchers out there, are pretty scared because their cattle rely on that water… Those ranchers will soon find themselves on the side of the natives, that have been saying for over a year, that this pipeline is going to be bad for the environment.”
Guerrero was also skeptical of the claim that the pipeline will create jobs or benefit the U.S. economy.
“That oil is not staying here, there’s not going to be permanent jobs created with the pipeline (…) they’re painting a pretty picture of something that is really nasty,” Guerrero explained.
While this rally did not attract nearly the same amount of celebrities and public figures as the women’s march did back in January, there were some celebrity sightings in the crowd, like actress Mary Mcdonnell, who is well known for her role in Dances with Wolves, and Rosanna Arquette, who spoke briefly before the march began.
It will be interesting to see how vocal the Hollywood community will be about the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy this Sunday, during the 2017 Academy Awards.