Twelve activists were arrested Monday morning in San Francisco while protesting Citibank's funding of the Dakota Access pipeline, which has triggered a national movement spanning online and grass-roots level platforms.
A crowd of about 50 people stood outside the San Francisco Citibank headquarters with placards and bullhorns to send a message to the bank and stand in solidarity with Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the site of the proposed pipeline.
Activists are protesting the $3.78 billion conduit from being built, claiming it would disturb sacred sites and become a significant threat to the available water supply from the Missouri River, the main water source for the Native American reservation.
Activists representing Diablo Rising Tide, a Bay Area climate and environmental organization, succeeded in shutting down the elevators that lead to the Citibank offices to protest the bank's involvement as the lead funder of the oil pipeline.
At 10 a.m., San Francisco Police Department officers issued a dispersal order, asking protesters to leave the premises or to expect arrests.
Laurel Sutherlin, a Dakota Access Pipeline protester at the scene explained, “We are in support and in solidarity, we are trying to stop the 1,100 mile dangerous pipeline from being constructed against their will. Protesters intend to stay; they will be peaceful and not resist arrest.”
Citigroup, which refused to comment on the protest, is the lead arranger and lender to the project. In August, the bank arranged for a $2.5 billion loan for the collection of oil companies building the pipeline.
"Oil companies and banks like Citigroup do not care about the clean water and clean air of impacted communities," said Christy Tennery-Spalding, a protester risking arrest at San Francisco Citibank headquarters. "These companies' only motivation is profit and we're here today to say, 'No more.'"
The Obama Administration has asked that construction on the pipeline be halted for the time being. The pipeline from the North Dakota oil fields to Illinois was originally going to cross the Missouri River near Bismark, but concerns that an oil spill in that location could pollute the capitol city's drinking water resulted in the pipeline being moved to within a half mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Despite the arrests, San Francisco police praised the protesters for remaining peaceful.
"They're exercising their First Amendment right," SFPD Capt. David Lazar said. "However, they can't do it on private property without being subject to arrest if the owner want them arrested."
Protesters were handcuffed until they could be brought outside. The protesters were then given a citation and released.
For hundreds of other protesters, a Facebook check-in at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has quickly become an ongoing virtual protest.
Posts on social media claim that the North Dakota sheriff’s department has been using Facebook’s check-in feature to locate individuals resisting the construction of the oil pipeline. In an effort to “overwhelm and confuse” the authorities, the Stand Against Dakota Access Pipeline Facebook page is asking supporters all over the United States to check-in to Standing Rock, North Dakota with the following message:
“The Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Standing Rock in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. Water Protectors are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at Standing Rock, ND to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that we can do without leaving our homes that can protect people who are putting their body and well-being on the line. Will you join me in Standing Rock?”
It was not clear where the claim originated. The Facebook search found that the text goes back at least to the 7 a.m. PT hour.
The Morton’s County Sheriff’s Department could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.