Communist group at Rutgers protests Standing Rock with Brower rally
Members of the All Marxist-Leninist Union and the American Party of Labor gathered on the steps of the Brower Dining Commons to protest construction on the Dakota Access pipeline on Wednesday night.
Donald Courter, the general secretary of the All Marxists-Leninists Union, said the protest’s goal was to show solidarity with the Sioux Native American tribe affected by a 1,172 mile pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline, being built in Standing Rock while also fighting against capitalistic ideals.
“There are people all over the country who are fighting against this injustice and who are being attacked by the police so we held this rally here to support them and to increase visibility of the issue,” the School of Arts and Sciences senior said.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is designed to transport oil across state lines towards Illinois. Once completed, the $3.7 billion project would span 1,172 miles and cross four state lines, according to CNN.
About 10 protesters participated in the event. One waved a communist flag while the rest held picket signs with slogans ranging from “I Stand With Standing Rock” to “Death to Capitalism.” After a series of chants, three individuals gave speeches about capitalist greed and its connection to the pipeline.
The proposed pipeline would encroach on the land of the Sioux Native American tribe in Standing Rock. Activists claim the project will contaminate the local water supply and worsen the living conditions of indigenous people, according to the New York Times.
Since August, more than 400 individuals have been arrested in association with protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, The New York Times reported. Use of teargas, rubber bullets and violence have been reported across the country, but construction on the project has continued.
“We know that this rally alone will not single-handedly solve the problem but maybe it will prompt people to take a closer look at the system and rethink the capitalist ideals that are behind this,” Courter said, “Without a mass movement, the capitalists will continue to plunder the land and prioritize profit over the lives of human beings.”
The All Marxists-Leninists Union meets every Thursday in Scott Hall. The group has an active presence on campus and held a similar rally earlier in the semester to protest Columbus Day, said Kevin Kipp, a Middlesex Community College student.
“Our main cause is solidarity with the people of standing rock as they fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. But we are also a Marxist Leninist union so we are, of course, also protesting the injustices of capitalism.” Kipp said, “Death to the bourgeoisie. It is time for proletariats to throw off our chains of oppression.”
Kipp said he became involved in the union unofficially through one of his friends at Rutgers. He was one the three students to give speeches during the rally.
He said the group's Standing Rock protest was not originally intended to coincide with Election Day. On principle, the group said rather than vote for one of the two candidates, they would prefer for a “social revolution to overthrow the government and establish a worker state,”
Most members said they voted for third-party candidates.
“Amidst the clamor of the bourgeoisie democratic election, as we are forced to choose between two demagogue candidates, we will stand against those who exploit us” Kipp said, “This protest today is merely the continuation of an age long historical process that will inevitably end with the dismantling of capitalism.”
Leonard Zorfass, head of the New Jersey Division of the American Party of Labor also spoke at the rally. He referred to the Dakota Access pipeline as the country’s latest expression of genocide, imperialism and oppression in the name “grow or die” economics.
Infringing on the land and the water of the indigenous people in Standing Rock indicates that the government is prioritizing money from big oil companies over the lives of the Sioux people, Zorfass said.
“As we speak, over 10,000 people are bravely standing against the United States’ expression of imperialism at standing rock,” he said, “The pipeline is being constructed on the sacred, promised land of Native Americans in order to satisfy corporate profit motives.”
Courter closed out the speeches by encouraging Rutgers students to unify and take action.
“I call to you to stand together with us, in solidarity against the Dakota Access pipeline and fight for clean water for indigenous people and for all peoples,” he said,” We will end the exploitation of working people at the hands of our capitalist overlords.”
Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.