If you’re wondering why your Facebook feed has suddenly become inundated with people “checking in” at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, it’s because they were asked to.
A viral post claiming that investigators were tracking protesters from the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement via social media led tens of thousands of users to “check-in” on North Dakota land, even if they were thousands of miles away.
Many participants aimed to support “water protectors” and sacred native land, while at the same time throwing off authorities who were reportedly targeting activists “in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps,” said a version of the message, whose origin was unclear. On Monday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department called that allegation a hoax.
“The [Department] is not and does not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location,” officials wrote on their Facebook page. “This claim/rumor is absolutely false.”
Above: An example of the viral Facebook post.
Minneapolis City Council members Alondra Cano and Jacob Frey joined the virtual protest by checking-in Monday, continuing their vocal backing of the movement, which fears the pipeline’s potential negative effects on drinking water. Cano and Frey have repeatedly spoken in favor of the tribes and respecting native treaties.
Cano, who has traveled to Standing Rock twice — most recently with about 150 indigenous youth to deliver supplies and volunteer their time in the kitchen serving campers — said she is an environmentalist before a politician.
Her recent Facebook check-in was an easy way to remain engaged even after returning home.
“I think it’s important to use social media as a tool to advance social justice, and this is a way to participate from afar,” Cano said. “It’s the environmental justice movement of our time.
Frey has not seen the protests firsthand, but said Tuesday that “as a white male, it’s important for me to show solidarity with a community that has over time had nearly all of its land taken from them.”
Demonstrators have been stationed at Standing Rock since April to fight the proposed path of the 1,200-mile Dakota Access pipeline, which would carry oil from western North Dakota to Illinois.
Law enforcement arrested more than 100 people last week, saying they were trespassing on private land owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is trying to schedule construction of the $3.8 billion project.
Hundreds of locals filled Minneapolis City Hall on Friday calling for the withdrawal of Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies, who were deployed Oct. 23 to assist in maintaining public safety in the area, along with deputies from Anoka and Washington Counties. Officials said 30 Hennepin County deputies returned to the Twin Cities on Monday after fulfilling their part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a national system for sharing personnel during a state of emergency.
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) is “answering the call” from protesters to send more people to Standing Rock by chartering a bus trip, which leaves Wednesday morning and returns Sunday. Tickets are “pay what you can” with a full-price seat running for $150.
Anthony Shields, NOC’s deputy field director, said at least 50 people have registered, but he expects more than 100 to take part in the road trip — including those choosing to carpool.
“[The message] really hits home for a lot of folks. We’re galvanized here in Minnesota because we saw that some of our Hennepin County sheriff’s [deputies] were used in the moment to oppose some of the peaceful protesters who are just trying to protect their main water source,” Shields said. “Everybody should show their support in any way they can.”