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Bernie Sanders on the Dakota Access Pipeline & Treaty Rights Violations by U.S. Government

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While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remained silent on the ongoing fight against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been a vocal supporter of the water protectors. As winter sets in and the water protectors continue their struggle to stop the pipeline, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman asked Sanders about the Dakota Access pipeline struggle at a sit-down interview at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Monday night.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You recently gave a speech in Washington around the Dakota Access pipeline.


AMY GOODMAN: What can you do right now? It seems—I want to ask a question about the peaceful transition of power that President Obama has been talking about. I thought that meant that people won’t take up arms in this period. But it does seem to be that even proposals that would be put forward now—we just came from Morocco, the U.N. climate summit; the U.S. pulled back on plans it was going to put forward there—that to ease the transition, they will go—the Obama administration will go in the direction of a Trump administration. Now, on the Dakota Access pipeline, President Obama, who visited Standing Rock in 2014—I think the only Native American reservation he visited, with Michelle Obama. They had a pow wow. They met the children. It was quite amazing. So, he knows the Standing Rock tribe in North Dakota. After the video of the dogs came out that we filmed Labor Day weekend, dogs with their nose and mouths dripping with blood from biting the Native American water protectors—they were unleashed by the pipeline guards—President Obama returned from Asia, and when a judge ruled on behalf of the company, three—15 minutes later, an unprecedented three-agency letter came out from the Army, from the Interior and Justice and said, “We’re going to—we are not going to issue this final permit.” But the latest we’ve heard this week is the Army Corps of Engineers says people have got to get off the property. What can you do as a senator, even in this time of the peaceful transition of power?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I trust that most people here know about the Dakota Access pipeline. The issues are threefold, and I’ll tell you what we are trying to do. And I think your description of the situation is correct. Number one, we’re dealing with sovereignty rights for Native American people, an invasion of their own property, in violation of treaty rights, which is an endemic problem in this country. Number two, you’re talking about an area where, if the pipe bursts, water, clean water that goes to millions of people in that region, could be severely impacted, at a time when we’re all concerned about the amount of clean water that we have. And thirdly, and most importantly perhaps, you’re talking about whether or not we should be in any way supporting a pipeline which is piping in filthy oil at a time when we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. So those are the three issues there.

I think what we have done is, number one, demanded that the president do what he did with Keystone. A lot of people put a lot of pressure on the president, and he finally did the right thing. And that is to kill the Keystone pipeline, which, by the way, under a Trump may be reopened again. But that is what he should be doing. And certainly, the demand must go to the North Dakota authorities that the kind of military presence that exists there is simply not what is acceptable. So, we have written to the president. We are going to continue to put pressure on the president to do everything he can to protect the Native Americans in the area and the protesters in the area.

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