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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Students, faculty take to social media to show solidarity with protesters in Standing Rock

Protests erupted at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota last week after residents of the reservation stopped the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and were met by police resistance.

Protesters continued to occupy the area and have received nationwide support, the majority of which occurred on social media. Facebook users have been “checking in” at Standing Rock, even those that are not physically there.

Sam Arriozola, a third-year UW-Madison student, was one of many students to show solidarity with the protesters at Standing Rock by checking in on Facebook.

“I can’t go to North Dakota; I can't pick up and leave because I’m a student and it's not a feasible thing money-wise,” Arriozola said. “I feel like social media, especially in activism, has been a big part of spreading the word and also being involved to whatever capacity that you can.”

The check ins originally started as a movement to distract police officers at the scene. However, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page that they were not following Facebook check ins at the protest. That did not stop from people placing themselves at Standing Rock on the social media website.

UW-Madison students have contributed through other means besides social media. Members of Wunk Sheek set up a donation drive to send money and necessities to the protesters in North Dakota, and some student organizations are preparing to travel to join the protest.

Leah Horowitz, a UW-Madison assistant professor in the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies and an expert on environmental activism, said it is important for people who want to make an impact get physically involved with the cause.

“We get so much of our information online these days,” Horowitz said. “Having people inform themselves on the Internet can be valuable, but it shouldn’t stop there. Starting a conversation and raising issues on a face-to-face basis, even being involved with local groups in Madison that are involved in supporting community out there, that’s a more powerful action people can take.”

Chris Wells, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an expert in media and young people’s participation in politics, said those checking in online should think outside the arena of social media and contact the decision-makers involved in the DAPL directly.

“Social media is important to raise awareness and have communication effects, but I think people should try to think strategically,” Wells said.

Arriozola said informing oneself about the topic is a big part of being an activist. She suggested attending solidarity demonstrations around Madison and sending monetary and physical donations as ways to actively contribute.

“You can say as much as you want, but your actions [online] at the end of the day don’t demonstrate whatever thing you’re trying to support,” Arriozola said. “You aren’t actually getting out there and contributing. It doesn’t matter what you post on Facebook?check ins are probably half the thing we can do as students not being there.”

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