Standing Rock protesters from Hawaii brave cold, snow

Standing Rock protesters from Hawaii brave cold, snow ahead of Gabbard visit
Published: Dec. 1, 2016 at 2:51 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2016 at 6:09 AM HST
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STANDING ROCK, NORTH DAKOTA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Hawaii residents who have been part of the protest against a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota are now dealing with snow and below-freezing temperatures ahead of a visit by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Several feet of snow now covers the free speech zone where protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline have been allowed to camp out at the Standing Rock reservation.

"The snow is heavy enough that it's collapsing the smaller tents," said Hawaii resident Andre Perez. "The weaker tents have been caving in."

Perez was among those arrested at Mauna Kea in the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope. He's at Standing Rock as part of the Indigenous Peoples Power Project, training protesters in nonviolent tactics -- even as North Dakota authorities have ordered the camp vacated by next week.

"It's a constant state of worry, uncertainty, concern, coupled with the necessity for survival in terms of making sure people are warm and winterized," he said.

But island residents in the freezing cold have been bolstered by Gabbard, who said she'll join the protest this weekend.

"It is about this pipeline being built and potentially contaminating water, a major water source for four different states in the area and millions of people," she said.

Native Hawaiians, environmentalists and others have also staged large protests in Hawaii, saying that water supplies are being endangered by the oil pipeline, and desecrates Native American reservation land.

Having Gabbard join the protest is good news to Hawaii resident Malia Hulleman, who's been at Standing Rock for nearly five months.

"The fact that she is a veteran and a representative for Hawaii, politically and just personally as well, is really powerful," said Hulleman.

"We're here to protect water," said Perez. "We're here to stop that pipeline."

President Obama said in early November that the Army Corps of Engineers was looking at other routes away from the reservation, but the energy company building the pipeline is holding firm, saying it won't consider alternative routes.

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