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Protesters in Tampa Rally Against Sabal Pipeline

Charlie Bellofatto stood on Ashley Drive at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa with a tambourine in one hand and a sign in the other.

The Tampa resident and Lakota Tribe member sang the Lakota “Four Directions Song” as he protested the Sabal Trail Transmission Pipeline and a crude oil pipeline being built on native land in the Midwest.

"I'm protesting anything that's gonna wreck Mother Earth,” Bellofatto said.

He joined about 50 demonstrators as part of more than 200 national “Day of Action” rallies across the U.S. against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Day of Action was called for by indigenous leaders in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

“I wish I could do more, but I can’t so I’m here today to help bring attention to it at the Florida end,’ Bellofatto said.

Pipeline protesters say pipelines, both crude oil and natural gas, irreparably damage the environment and water it runs through.

In Tampa, the main focus was on the more than 500-mile long Sabal natural gas pipeline, which started construction this summer. It will wind from Alabama through northern Florida, ending near the Polk and Osceola county line. 

Credit Sierra Club Florida.
Sabal Trail pipeline route map.

Katy Daley, the organizer of the Tampa protest, said she wishes people spent their money on safer energy sources.

“It would be more economical for it to be solar or water or things that were not so terrible for the environment,” Daley said.

Mikayla Haak, a member of Yankton Sioux Tribe, moved to Florida from South Dakota earlier this year. She says while pipelines around the country run through native land, but the issue goes beyond that.

“It’s not just a native issue,” Haak said. “It’s not just a climate issue. It’s a people issue. It’s a human issue. We need to stop all pipelines. We need to stop being dependent on fossil fuels, stop being dependent on energy that isn’t renewable.”

The protesters toted signs and encouraged people in passing cars to honk in solidarity as they voiced their concerns about possible environmental and health impacts, like a drilling leak this week along the Withlacoochee River in South Georgia where pipe is being laid.

A Sabal Trail spokesperson said the leak is not dangerous to humans or wildlife.

The Sabal Trail pipeline is scheduled to be completed by May 2017. 

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.