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Dakota Access Pipeline prompts SF sunrise protest

Hundreds of protesters congregated outside San Francisco City Hall Tuesday for a sunrise demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline, calling the planned 1,172-mile crude oil conduit a potential disaster for sacred Native American land.

Holding signs reading “Water is life” and “We are here to protect,” the protesters formed a circle in Civic Center Plaza and burned sage in a peaceful sunrise prayer service.

Just before 9 a.m., the demonstrators began marching up Market Street, blocking traffic in both directions. The protesters marched to the Army Corps of Engineers offices on Market Street, between 10th and 11th streets, where they locked arms and blocked access to the building.

“We want to all come together and open our eyes and hearts. We need to talk to the corporations and open their eyes and hearts,” Isabella Azizi, a Richmond resident who helped organize the protest, told the crowd over a loudspeaker.

The $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline was approved in July by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 30-inch diameter pipeline would run through North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Illinois.

Developer Energy Access Partners says the project would tap into 7.4 billion barrels of crude oil and make the United States less dependent on foreign oil.

But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Army Corps, saying the project “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance to the Tribe.”

The protest was part of a nationwide day of action.

“We want to stop the fossil fuel industry,” Azizi said. “No more taking the oil out of the ground. It wants to stay in Mother Earth.”

Protester Judy Grether, 73, said it was important for people to take a stand against the pipeline, particularly in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States.

“Trump being elected makes it all the more urgent. It’s scary,” Grether said. “He could do in our planet.”

San Francisco resident Charlie Ballard, 42, said he visited the Standing Rock reservation in September.

“As a native person, I felt the calling to come protect the water,” Ballard said. “If the pipeline breaks, it could poison the drinking water for millions. People don’t understand how serious this is.”

Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: esernoffsky@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @EvanSernoffsky

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