At 6:30 p.m. Thursday night, a small group of students huddled at the corner of the Arch with signs and sweaters, talking and waiting for their Standing Rock protest to begin.
The Standing Rock protests across the nation are resisting the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would run an oil pipeline through a Native American reservation and their sacred land and under the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
People across the nation, specifically the Sioux Native Americans, have rallied against the pipeline with protests that began in the spring. But it is not just Native Americans who oppose the pipeline.
Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Georgia stood against the pipeline construction with about 10 members in the beginning of the night, which grew some as the protest continued.
Osama Mor, a senior biology major from Augusta, headed the protest as the president of SJP. Mor is Palestinian and has family who has faced hardships from Zionists in Palestine.
According to the SJP website, members believe “it is our duty to promote liberation and educate other specifically about the plight of the Palestinians.”
Mor said they were protesting for Standing Rock as an act of solidarity because he sees parallels between colonization in Palestine and colonization in the United States.
“Not only does the U.S. colonize indigenous nations continuously — the process of colonization in our opinion has not ceased — but at the same time the U.S. materially and financially supports the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands,” Mor said.
SJP organized the protest through social media and met beforehand to talk about the protest and make posters.
The students held posters with phrases like “Water is Life!” and “From Palestine to Standing Rock — Resistance is Right” in a line in front of the Arch.
Mor said he expected more people to come, but thanked those who did participate and talked about the Standing Rock efforts and their opposition to the Dakota Pipeline. Other people also came to join and talk with protesters.
Melanie Yazzie joined the protest while the group was chanting “From Palestine to Standing Rock, occupation is a crime.”
Yazzie, a first-year graduate student in agriculture and environmental education from New Mexico, said she heard about the event through Facebook.
“I’m surprised something is going on here, but I’m very happy to know about it,” Yazzie said. “I’m excited to get involved. I would love to be in Standing Rock.”
As a Native American, she thanked the protesters for bringing awareness of Standing Rock to the University of Georgia. She called the pipeline a form of “environmental racism” against indigenous people.
“People need to take it seriously,” she said. “Native Americans haven’t had a strong voice and now we do, and it’s 300 tribes standing in solidarity over there and nobody’s really talking about it. It’s not for nothing. It’s because they’re thinking about the future and the environment. That’s what they’re fighting for.”
Mor said there are only six Native American UGA students, and he did not want to talk on behalf of them, but wanted to support them through the SJP.
“I’m going to reiterate the American Indians’ demands that they set forward to the U.S. government,” Mor said. “They demanded recognition of treaty violations, reparations for those treaty violations, reparations for 500 years of colonization and the establishment of sovereignty to the nations. They demanded their integrity and dignity and their right to their land and water.”
The group dispersed at 7:45 p.m. after standing in a line for about an hour.
“There has simply never been a conclusion to colonization,” Mor said. “And now the indigenous people have only mere reservations, when really their land is much greater than that.”