When Oakland resident Rosa Aqeel first heard about protests over an oil pipeline under construction in North Dakota, she immediately felt compelled to show her support.
“I was alerted of how hostile law enforcement was treating (the activists), and it seemed so typical of how people who try to defend their rights are treated – whether that’s people in North Dakota or Black people in Oakland,” Aqeel told the Post. “I felt I should stand with them.”
As associate director for PolicyLink, an Oakland-based research institute that focuses on economic and social equity, Aqeel works to engage communities like the Hoopa Valley Tribe in Northern California with her organization.
A friend she met through work said he was going to join the hundreds of Native Americans who have gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and so she went with him from Sept. 11 to 14.
Standing with the protestors, who say the proposed $3.8 billion oil pipeline could contaminate the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply and destroy ancestral lands, Aqeel said the demonstration was “the most beautiful and unifying moment in my life.”
“It was amazing to see how many people had shown up from all around the planet to stand with the Standing Rock tribe, and to see how devoted people are to the protection of land and water,” Aqeel said. “It was really indescribable.”
Support for the environmental activists and Native American tribes fighting the pipeline’s construction has quickly grown nationwide, with Oakland lawmakers speaking up this week.
Oakland councilmembers on Tuesday displayed their solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux by unanimously approving a resolution in support of their opposition to DAPL.
The resolution, which was authored by Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan and put forward by councilmembers Dan Kalb and Abel Guillen, puts the city on record as supporting the activists in North Dakota.
“I am proud to be part of a city that stands up for justice,” Kaplan said.
“Together, we have a moral obligation to say no to poisoning our water, no to the violence against those being harmed in North Dakota, and to honor our First Nations peoples,” she said.
Meanwhile, efforts to permanently halt the pipeline’s construction continue in North Dakota, which Aqeel said parallels the Bay Area’s fight against displacement and police brutality.
“What we are seeing in Oakland is what native communities have experienced for centuries,” she said.
“The police department has shown no regard for Black lives in our community. These struggles are connected. Our ability to win on either one depends on each other.”