Updated Feb. 23 at 10:45 p.m.
As part of a movement among colleges nationwide, Brown student groups began to circulate a petition Wednesday to raise media awareness around the No Dakota Access Pipeline movement. The petition had 6,482 signatures from over 300 colleges, four countries and 160 student groups as of press time on Wednesday. The petition, created by Oberlin students Dana Kurzer-Yashin and Dana Colihan, was created on Feb. 22.
The petition and accompanying press release were a response to the removal of protesters at the Standing Rock encampment by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the National Guard, the North Dakota State Police and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Protesters were ordered to leave the main camp by Wednesday at 2 p.m. As they prepared to evacuate the site, several protesters who had camped there for weeks set buildings on fire, and police arrested approximately 10 members of the protests, according to Valley News Live, a local news station in North Dakota.
“The statement is addressed to the media essentially. Trying to bring the media presence would enforce accountability. If the world’s eyes are on what’s happening at Standing Rock then there is a higher chance of enforcing the safety and human rights of who’s there,” Kurzer-Yashin said.
Kurzer-Yashin and Colihan used social media to mobilize students, asking them to broaden the network of the petitions. “We are explicitly targeting people of institutions of higher learning because of the privilege of legitimacy,” Kurzer-Yashin said.
Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition was one of the student groups to sign the petition. “BIRC’s mission statement is to seek liberation and fight for immigrants. That means we have to be in solidarity with other groups affected by similar issues,” said Arely Diaz ’17, a member of BIRC.
BIRC’s constitution states that the group sees itself “as part of the global community working in solidarity towards creating a just world in which forms of oppression are abolished.”
Diaz said this was the sentiment behind BIRC’s decision to sign the petition. “That means we show solidarity with several forms of oppression (that) people in Standing Rock are facing, like police brutality. We show support for their struggle to protect their land,” Diaz said.
Colihan and several other students who helped created the petition went to Standing Rock this fall following the election. “It’s not just about the … people of Standing Rock fighting for their water rights. It’s about indigenous people all over America having the right to exist in general and having the right to the land,” Colihan said.
"We support the continued student efforts on campus and nationwide to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock," Native Americans at Brown wrote in a statement to The Herald. "We are grateful that members of the extended community here at Brown have given their time, love, money, labor and commitment to the Standing Rock Sioux's efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and recognize that this petition is part of a larger story of student and faculty activism against the Dakota Access Pipeline and in solidarity with indigenous peoples."
University officials could not be reached for comment by press time.