Protesters stood on La Jolla Shores Drive as police prepared for the arrival of President Obama's motorcade
A group of climate activists lined La Jolla Shores Drive on Monday morning (October 24), calling on president Barack Obama to take executive action to halt construction on a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota. Obama was in town for a Sunday-night fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton campaign and played a round of golf at Torrey Pines in the morning before leaving San Diego.
"The Lakota are at the forefront of protecting clean water, not just for themselves but everyone else," said Olympia Beltran, who, along with a group of others from San Diego, traveled to the Standing Rock reservation earlier this month to take part in ongoing protests there. "The Missouri River and its watershed is a source of water for the whole region....
"There was a daily military-like police presence. You had to pass through blockades to get into the camps," Beltran said of her trip. "These people are non-violent, they're peaceful, prayerful. But they're being arrested, manhandled — the tribal chair was strip-searched on his arrest. The way they're being treated is inhumane."
North Dakota sheriff's deputies, meanwhile, have described events there as anything but peaceful. Weekend events led to the arrest of over 100 protesters as the Texas-based developer Energy Transfer seeks to speed up construction.
Protesters in La Jolla on Monday said the proper approach would be to put the project on hold.
"The federal government has already asked the company building this pipeline to voluntarily stop its work while they address policy as to whether indigenous people have the right to say they don't want this pipeline on their land," explained San Diego 350 volunteer Masada Disenhouse. "We'd like to see President Obama act on this. He's got less than 100 days left in office, and he has an opportunity while he's still president to push climate policy forward, things like stopping new [oil] extraction on federal land."
While the pipeline's planned route does not actually cross tribal land, burial grounds the tribe considers sacred have already been disturbed during construction, and tribal members say the federal government erred in failing to consider their protests prior to approving the project.
"There were no climate-change questions asked during the debates, which we think is pretty shameful," Disenhouse continued, alluding to uncertainty under the next administration. "A question about the Dakota Access Pipeline could have touched on that as well as the indigenous-rights issue, but instead the candidates haven't really had to say much on the issue."
Indeed the Clinton campaign has been evasive on the issue, saying only that "stakeholders need to get together at this point." Trump, who also hasn't taken a stance on the project, has invested between $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer.