North Dakota access pipeline protesters bring their voices outside of Texas Tribune Festival

Brianna Stone

While politicians, media and community members gathered at the Texas Tribune Festival, protesters outside the AT&T Conference Center endured through the Texas heat Saturday to show their opposition to the North Dakota access pipeline being built through Native American territory, the Standing Rock Reservation.

Protesters traveled to Austin from Houston this weekend to spread awareness of issues surrounding the pipeline and gain the attention of visiting politicians and journalists. 

Protesters also called for recognition of Native American rights in general. Although hundreds of people RSVP’d to the Facebook event page and less than 15 showed, protesters say they accomplished their goals of gaining attention and spreading the word.

“We, as human beings, have been ignored and continue to be ignored,” said Rodolfo Rivera Muñoz, a Native American lawyer running for Texas Supreme Court Justice, place three.

Muñoz said he participated in the protest to help remedy the injustices against Native Americans.

“We haven’t had a voice, no means of telling the American public the truth,” Muñoz said. “They are afraid of it.”

Muñoz said he has filed and pursued litigation for more Native American rights to the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, but has not had any luck. 

“Indians have never participated in government,” Muñoz said. “I’m a candidate for Supreme court justice, place 3 and hope to give a voice to our people.”

Protester Alex Sherwood said they were there to raise awareness for people who are unfamiliar with the pipeline issue and to call out politicians and ask for support of Standing Rock.

“I do think this is an issue that people should be able to come together on — like the Civil Rights Movement,” Sherwood said. “People should agree that this is important.”

Taylor Jones, a protester and member of the Austin Environmental Justice Group, had the opportunity to attend the Festival and speak with former state Sen. Wendy Davis. D-Fort Worth.

Jones said Davis acknowledged the demonstrators and told her that she stands with Standing Rock.

“I believe bringing visibility and attention to an issue that is often marginalized is important,” Jones said. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, drove by thedemonstration and was stopped alongside the protesters due to traffic. Protesters approached the car and urged for acknowledgment of their cause.

Protester Sarah Garcia yelled through a megaphone at Cruz as he sat in the passenger seat of the car.

“We voted for you. I want to know where you stand — with or without Standing Rock?” Garcia said. “That’s why I came here, to see you.”

Before the encounter with Cruz, Garcia said the protesters have been very invested in the pipeline and there have been many powerful officials who have sold them out
for money.

“It’s time we take a stand and make it known that we aren’t going anywhere until this pipeline is put to a stop,” Garcia said. “We demand accountability from you, our elected officials and the media. You can’t stop us. We’re making it known and we’re reforming the world.”