Former Vice President Al Gore is backing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
On Oct. 25, Gore released an official statement announcing his support for the tribe’s fight against the pipeline that they say is encroaching on their sacred burial sites and could potentially contaminate their reservation’s drinking water, Native News Online reports.
“I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Gore said. “We have witnessed inspiring and brave acts by Native Americans and their allies who are defending and trying to protect their sacred sites and the safety of their sole source of water.”
The controversial pipeline would stretch across 1,172 miles and would transport crude oil from the Bakken Formation through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, CNN reports.
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The project was approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers and has been billed as a lucrative opportunity for state and local governments and a way for the U.S. to strengthen its energy independence. The pipeline has been criticized by the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies as environmentally dangerous and disrespectful to the sovereignty of indigenous people.
Gore, who has spent his years after the White House dedicated to environmental activism, agrees with the pipeline’s critics.
The former vice president criticized the fossil fuel industry for disregarding the “proceeding with what appears to be a dangerous project in blatant disregard of obvious risks to the Missouri River and with disrespect to the Standing Rock Sioux.”
Gore also noted his concern that local law enforcement have been “using oppressive practices against this community.”
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Protesters have complained about being pepper sprayed, strip searched and intimidated by police dogs. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault has requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) deploy observers to ensure that the protesters are allowed to peacefully protest, The Huffington Post reports.
“I hope his request is honored,” Gore said.
Local law enforcement has pushed back against accusations that they have been oppressive towards the protesters and that they have been working solely in the interests of Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier asserted that protesters have not been peaceful, adding “We can not have protesters blocking country roads, blocking state highways, or trespassing on private property.”
Gore concluded that supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was to acknowledge fundamental American values.
“The effort to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are respected are not only issues of civil rights and religious freedom, but reflect the choice we must make to ensure a sustainable, just, fair and healthy future for all generations to come,” Gore said.