Monday night was a cold one for University of Dayton junior Cody Ruffing and his peers who were protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline by sleeping in tents outside Marycrest Hall. But as he put it, “that’s the point.”
“We’ll survive, we’ll wake up in the morning,” Ruffing said. “Having some discomfort tonight is the point.”
Students were geared up with tents and sleeping bags to get through the night, with rain approaching and temperatures dropping below 37 degrees. Students said it was the least they could do after what protesters put themselves through at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, where the pipeline was supposed to cross.
“The most important thing is that we can show this is something we’re passionate about,” Ruffing said. “People follow passion.”
Ruffing and student organizers Sarah Richard and Celia Montemurri were setting up tents before the sun set Monday and expected 50 or more students to join them through the night.
They were scheduled to chat with a protester at Standing Rock via Skype and hear from from Guy Jones, founder of The Miami Valley Council for Native Americans. Students also planned to spend the night discussing the pipeline protests, reflecting and enjoying some music and hot drinks.
“We wanted to give them a little support, all the way over here in Dayton, Ohio, to show them that we think what they’re doing is right and justified,” Montemurri said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday announced it would deny a final easement needed for the $3.8 billion pipeline that is a project of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners.
The pipeline would transport crude oil from North Dakota, through South Dakota, Iowa and to Illinois, where it would be able to provide oil for Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would help boost “America’s energy independence” as it would allow the transport of domestically produced crude oil, according to the Dakota Access pipeline’s website.
The Army Corps’ decision was a victory for protesters at Standing Rock, Richard said, but students still wanted to host the “sleep out” to show their support.
“We still need to keep fighting for water rights and sacred rights,” Richard said. “This is a celebration and continuation of standing in solidarity.”
Transporting oil by pipeline is considered a safer alternative to moving it via truck or rail, according to the Dakota Access website. Protesters have claimed the pipeline would threaten Native American cultural sites and a water source at the Standing Rock reservation.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe praised the decision by the Army Coprs to halt pipeline construction and said that “all of Indian Country will be forever grateful.”
Montemurri called the decision by the Army Corps to deny the pipeline’s final easement a “big step forward.” While she criticized government officials for at first not listening to protesters, Montemurri said the decision was a welcome and somewhat unexpected outcome.
“It’s been way, way too hard for them to get their voices heard,” Montemurri said.
Montemurri and Richard are “river stewards,” meaning they participate in a program at the university designed to help students develop leadership skills while getting civically involved. The pair, who are roommates, were sitting together at their apartment talking about the Dakota Access pipeline when they came up with the idea for the “sleep out.”
“We were just like, ‘We need to do something about this,’ ” Richard said. “Then, within just two weeks, we had this all planned.”