Ahmed Elbenni

On Wednesday evening, around 300 protestors gathered in the cold outside TD Bank on Chapel Street to protest the company’s funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The rally, which began at 4:30 p.m. and lasted for nearly two hours, attracted people of various demographic groups. It was organized by the ad hoc group “New Haven stands with Standing Rock,” which is part of the larger group “CT Stands with Standing Rock,” according to Melinda Tuhus, one of the organizers of the event. The Dakota Access Pipeline is an oil pipeline that upon completion will stretch for 1,178 miles across four states, from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota down to a refinery in Illinois. The project has sparked local protests as it will pass through lands considered sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe consider sacred, and the local tensions have escalated into nationwide protests against oil companies’ exploitation of indigenous lands for profit.

“TD Securities, the parent of TD Bank, is one of the biggest funders of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Tuhus said. “The people in Standing Rock want everybody to come there and stand in solidarity with them, [but] they know everybody can’t do that. So if [we] can’t go there, they want us to do actions where [we] live.”

Protestors paraded holding signs, which included slogans like “#No DAPL,” “Honor the Treaties,” “New Haven Stands With Standing Rock” and “Water is Life.” Protestors also made themselves heard, with chants that included “we can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil” and “peace, the planet, the people over profit.”

The first 30 minutes of the rally rook place on the corner of the New Haven Green by the intersection of College and Chapel streets. There, a series of speakers outlined the history of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the problems facing indigenous communities who live in the territory the pipeline would potentially cross. Many people from these communities have led protests against DAPL, and speakers at Wednesday’s demonstration spoke about the militarization of police handling the protests in North Dakota.

Many of the speakers at Wednesday’s event were from different Native American tribes and had come to stand in solidarity with their fellow indigenous peoples.

Chris Fusco, a member of the Mohegan Tribe in southeastern Connecticut, spoke of his grandmother’s pivotal role in securing federal recognition of their tribe in the 1990s. He added that his aunt is the current standing chief and has worked to keep women’s voices present within national politics.

“I’m [at this rally] mainly to honor them and thank them for everything they did for me and my family,” Fusco said.

Following the speeches, participants crossed the street to stand in front of TD Bank itself. Protestors formed a temporary wall underneath the traffic lights while others marched in circles around the intersection of College and Chapel streets, halting traffic for roughly five minutes until law enforcement officials forced them off the streets.

The bulk of protestors then stood directly in front of TD Bank for the next hour, picketing and cheering at vehicles that honked in support as they sped by.

Protestors said they attended to both show solidarity and protest what they saw as larger problems symbolized by the controversy over the pipeline.

Ben Martin, a member of the environmental advocacy group 350Connecticut, said Standing Rock represents the overarching problem of fossil fuel use, which he said destroys the Earth’s climate, land and water. He also criticized corporations for taking native peoples’ lands solely for profit.

“For us, money is not as important as people’s lives and clean water and clean land,” Martin said.

The Dakota Access Pipeline will cost $3.7 billion to complete.