Why Shailene Woodley’s arrest and the No Dakota Pipeline Access Protests are important

Written by Alejandra Matheu-Rios, Staff Writer

The Dakota Pipeline Project is a 1,172-mile pipeline planned for construction across North Dakota to Illinois to transport crude oil across the U.S. more efficiently. This pipeline is a terrible idea, and I am not the first person to express disagreement: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a Native American tribe that lives in a region where the pipe would cross, is currently protesting the pipeline over environmental concerns, arguing that an oil leak could contaminate their water and sacred lands, which include burial grounds, prayer sites, and artifacts.

I agree with their concerns; oil spills happen in the ocean all the time, ruining our seawater and sea life, and are clearly an unavoidable threat. The most recent major incident was in May, when the Shell oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico leaked over 90,000 gallons of oil into the ocean. The potential of an oil spill happening on the lands of North Dakota is incredibly high; the risk is clearly not worth taking.

But there’s more to the situation than environmental hazards. Some celebrities and public figures have gotten involved in the protests, including presidential candidate Jill Stein and actress Shailene Woodley.

On Monday, Oct 10, protesters peacefully chanting and praying were arrested under charges including “criminal trespassing,” and among those arrested was Woodley. She used the Facebook Live function on her phone to record over two hours of peaceful protests and document her arrest. She had been walking back to her RV when officers suddenly arrested her for “trespassing.” However, the video clearly shows she was standing next to her vehicle at the time of the arrest, proving that her arrest was unexpected and unprovoked.

Woodley’s arrest shows that the right to speech and the right to publicly disagree was taken from her, the other 26 arrested, and the other thousands in protest. Woodley was using her broad platform as a celebrity to express the disagreement and disadvantages of the pipeline, and what does she get in return? Arrested.

As a young American, I’d like to know that I can freely protest and disagree with the projects, plans, and laws of corporations and the government without being unduly arrested. I understand that if protests do become violent and do break laws, then arrests will be made. But for protesters to be arrested for simply walking back to an RV, for protesting peacefully and praying for a pipeline to be stopped? It saddens me and it disgusts me – but it also makes me more furious, more vocal, and more invested in supporting the pipeline protests.

It also makes me eager to call others to the cause. Hillary Clinton, for whom I am voting this presidential election, needs to take a stand on the Dakota Pipeline. The media also has a responsibility to make the Dakota Pipeline a well-known issue, cover the side of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and show the public what the tribe has to lose.

Lastly, I call on you to use your voice in any way you can by writing letters to politicians and using the hashtag #NoDAPL on social media to spread the word. Do your research, know your stance, and use your First Amendment right to speak up.


Photo source: John Lamparski, Getty Images

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