WASHINGTON – Holding hands, hundreds of protesters opposed to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines took to the streets of Washington Tuesday night for a fresh round of demonstrations after President Trump signed executive orders clearing the way for the controversial projects to move forward.
“There’s a man sitting in that house right now who is not going to stand for anyone other than himself,” Jicarilla Apache Nation member Eryn Wise told the crowd by the White House.
Others chanted, “We’re not going away. Welcome to your fourth day!”
The backlash in D.C. and other cities swiftly signaled that the kind of anti-pipeline demonstrations that took over a swath of North Dakota last year are revving up again.
Only this time, they're going national.
The president, in signing the orders Tuesday, described them as a bid to put Americans back to work. The actions make it easier for TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline and for Energy Transfer Partners to build the final stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
"It's about time," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. "These pipelines will strengthen our nation’s energy supply and help keep energy costs low for American families."
Proponents say the pipelines will create jobs and reduce reliance on foreign energy. Opponents say the pipelines will harm the environment and could pollute drinking water.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, joined several environmental groups in denouncing Trump’s actions.
“Donald Trump has been in office for four days, and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be,” Brune said in a statement.
Trump said the two pipeline projects would be subject to renegotiation of terms, but made clear that the government – with his approval – would resume consideration for both.
“The Trump administration’s politically motivated decision violates the law and the Tribe will take legal action to fight it,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement, warning of a "second Flint" water crisis.
Several-hundred protesters already were making their way back to North Dakota's main protest campsite, where demonstrators clashed last year with law enforcement in an at-times chaotic scene, after Trump's inauguration.
However, their presence at that specific site may be short-lived.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called for activists to leave, out of concern for their safety because of predicted seasonal flooding of the river near the area of the camps. The elements have created a dangerous situation. Videos have shown protesters huddled together for warmth and struggling to walk in minus 4-degree weather.
Demonstrators now have until the end of the month to leave, according to a resolution passed by the tribal council in Fort Yates. If they remain, the tribe could call on federal law enforcement officials to have them removed and block re-entry.
The tribe, though, says it will resume its fight in the courtroom.
Other protesters, meanwhile, hit the streets on Tuesday. In Seattle, hundreds gathered in Westlake Park to protest.
“We’re here today as a human family,” Paul Cheyok’ten Wagner, of the Saanich First Nations of Vancouver Island, told Komonews.com. “We’re letting the world know that we will not allow the Dakota Access Pipeline of the XL Pipeline to harm our grandchildren.”
In New York, more than 2,000 people had signed up to attend a protest near Columbus Circle only a few hours after Trump signed the executive actions.
Jane Fonda joined a group of protesters outside Trump Tower. The 79-year-old actress-turned-activist called Trump the “predator-in-chief” and denounced his pipeline plans.
Trump’s executive orders, while expected, mark a major shift from the Obama administration, which had stalled both projects.
“We’re going to put a lot of … steel workers back to work,” Trump said Tuesday. “We’ll build our own pipelines, we will build our own pipes.”
He said the Keystone XL would create 28,000 jobs – a number that is at odds with a 2014 State Department study that projected the pipeline would create 3,900 construction jobs and 35 permanent ones.
For the Dakota Access Pipeline, proponents estimate it would create 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs and pump an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes into the economy. The pipeline is expected to generate an estimated $55 million annually in property taxes in the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois.
Moments after signing the executive order for the disputed pipelines, Trump ignored a reporter’s question about the Native American protesters and environmentalists who have fiercely opposed it.