Seattle protesters locked out of Ballard Locks, but still rally against Dakota Access Pipeline

SEATTLE – A group of protesters feel locked out from being able to voice their concerns.  Tuesday night, hundreds gathered in Ballard to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the Ballard Locks to them.

The controversial pipeline would transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling 1, 170 miles.  Several Native American tribes argue the construction of the pipeline threatens the environment and violates treaty agreements.

The plan was to have the rally outside the Ballard Locks and then go into the park grounds and cross the locks over the water.  A long-standing slogan for the supporters of Standing Rock is “Water is Life.”

Protesters say water is being threatened by the pipeline, but before protesters arrived, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks park grounds in Ballard closed the grounds.

A couple hundred protesters in Ballard gathered to show solidarity in Seattle for the contentious battle in North Dakota.

“The pipeline is going right under their water source. In addition to that, more to me, those bulldozers are running right over the top of burial grounds,” said Duwamish Native Ken Workman.

“What impacts one impacts us all,” said protester Jessa Lewis.

Seattle’s Jessa Lewis has been to the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest four times.

“You’ve got airplanes flying low, you’ve got cars with no license plates driving by taking photos of you, your cell phone service is shut down, you’re subject to searches to seizures,” said Lewis.

Workman says the rights of protesters are being trampled on even in Seattle.  Just before three this afternoon, staff closed the locks park grounds, saying they didn’t have enough staff to accommodate the hundreds coming for the protest to ‘ensure public safety and property protection for a gathering of the size anticipated.’

“All of this stuff about the gates being locked up and how these people feel that this is their land. This is part of the government land and we should have access to it. I know exactly how they feel,” said Workman.

Protesters across the nation gathered with one demand.

“We’re asking the Obama administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers to shut this pipeline down before the Trump administration takes office and takes power,” said Lewis.

Lewis fears President-elect Donald Trump will step up the pipeline construction.  Monday, the US Army Corps of Engineers said it would halt construction while consulting with tribal leaders and conducting further assessment of the plans.  It marks a small victory for protesters in Ballard Tuesday night as some plan to travel to North Dakota this weekend.

“Make it a good fight, make it an honest fight.  It has to be peaceful, though, can’t have any violence,” said Workman.

The national union group the AFL-CIO has long  supported the Dakota Access Pipeline arguing the construction and future use and maintenance means thousands of jobs and a boost to the economy.  The parent company of Dakota Access, Energy Transfer Partners, argues the concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are completely unfounded.