November 11, 2016, LEESBURG — During the Nov. 4 First Friday in Leesburg, pedestrians and drivers could not help but notice the candlelight vigil at the corner of King and Market streets near the Loudoun County Courthouse historic marker. It was held in solidarity for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Water Protectors, who are conducting civil disobedience in an effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Water Protectors are supported by the largest assembly of other Indigenous Americans from the U.S. and Canada.
The pipeline threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation drinking water supply, as well as sacred tribal burial grounds. Since early September, the Water Protectors have been subjected to attack dogs brought by pipeline security guards and a militarized response by local law enforcement and the National Guard. Over $10 million dollars has been spent against the non-violent Water Protectors, with another $4 million requested.
The climate activist group 350 Loudoun led the vigil, displaying a model pipeline, holding signs, and distributing information. Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun were in attendance. Former educator and administrator Ann Marie Morreale felt compelled to participate when she saw the vigil. “It was gratifying to see so many drivers stop and call out their support.”
“It’s good to experience Leesburg First Night done right,” said Leesburg resident Michael Chesser. “November is National Native American Heritage month.”
“This isn’t just happening in North Dakota,” said Leesburg resident Sarah Richardson. “There are also active plans to build more fossil fuel infrastructure that will bring more fracked gas into and through Loudoun County.”
This Vigil launched a series of events focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Friday, November 11, 350 Loudoun organized a protest at the Leesburg Plaza TD Bank. The Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL, is directly funded by 17 banks, including TD Bank and other banks in Loudoun County: Bank of America, Capitol One, Citibank, Citizens Bank, PNC Bank, Suntrust, Wells Fargo. Banks provide loans or lines of credit to oil and gas corporations to build pipelines. Banks, more so than these corporations, are more susceptible to public pressure. So, pressuring banks to stop funding the DAPL is a strategy that concerned citizens, no matter where they live, can do to fight the pipeline.
Climate Activist and founder 350.org Bill McKibben, recently wrote in Yes! Magazine, http://abv8.me/4R4, “Maybe there’s a Citibank branch in your neighborhood. Or Wells Fargo or Bank of America or HSBC. Maybe you even keep your money in one—if so, you inadvertently helped pay for the guard dogs that attacked Native Americans as they tried to keep bulldozers from mowing down ancestral grave sites.
Maybe you have a retirement plan invested with Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley—if so, you helped buy the pepper spray that the company used to clear the way for its crews as they cleared the right of way straight to the Missouri River.”
Ten protestors stood at the corner of E. Market and Plaza Streets and were supported by honks and thumbs up every few minutes throughout the 60 minute protest. Sterling, VA resident Leo Angulo, joined by his son Lionel and relatives from Arlington, participated because “I want to provide awareness to Loudoun County residents and for all to divest from financial institutions funding the DAPL. “
Vivian Delgado protested. “I stand with Standing Rock because indigenous lives matter. We must stand together to inform those that are not aware of the oppression happening on native land in this fight to protect our water.”
UUCL member Nancy Chamberlain’s hand-made sign read “Native Americans Short Changed Once Again!” Another sign created by 350 Loudoun member Connie Cota was the No DAPL motto “Water is Life.”
Leesburg Town Councilperson elect Ron Campbell participated because “We can’t stop trying to make a difference.” Yes, everyone can make a difference.
A few passersby joined the protest. Christopher Klein, an anti-fracking activist originally from Page County, stated “I am opposed entirely to fracking. I believe in renewable and sustainable energy sources, but realize that hydrocarbons will take time to phase out.” Investing in new fossil fuel projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline or pipelines proposed in VA such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, will extend the “phase out” time by decades. We cannot wait that long to transition off fossil fuels to clean renewables.
350 Loudoun is organizing future events to raise funds for the Water Protectors in Standing Rock, N. Dakota to help sustain them through the winter. To learn more about the Water Protectors and to see the list of supplies as well as an Amazon Wish List, visit: http://www.nodaplarchive.com/ KD Kidder is also accepting supply donations at PhotoWorks, 2a Loudoun Street in Leesburg.