Facebook users scrolling through their newsfeed last Monday, Oct. 31, were confused by friends and family claiming to be in North Dakota.
Although those checking in weren’t physically at the site of the protests of the North Dakota Access Pipeline, their support was seen throughout the country.
Over 30,000 people falsely checked-in at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation because of a post that claimed police at the construction site of a 1,200-mile oil pipeline had been using Facebook to target protestors. The protestors called on everyone to show their support by checking in at Standing Rock as an attempt to confuse police.
Opponents of the pipeline are concerned that if installed, the pipeline would lead to oil spills which would taint drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and that the construction of the pipeline would destroy cultural artifacts.
Hannah Novicki, senior general resource management major, said, “I said I was at Standing Rock because I learned that police were using Facebook check-in as a way to target individuals protesting,”
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department of North Dakota denied using Facebook to monitor the Sacred Stone Camp.
With tensions rising between protestors and police in recent weeks, police from seven states have been sent to North Dakota to control the protesters.
Wisconsin has sent police officers from five counties. The Portage County Sherriff’s Department denied sending any police to the Standing Rock Camp.
The police at the protest site have recently been highly criticized for using excessive force. Numerous videos show officers using pepper spray and rubber bullets on those at the protest site. The Facebook check-ins were used as a symbol of defiance towards the police as well as support for those on the frontlines of the protest.
While the original post asking Facebook users to check-in was not made by an official representative from the protest site, many leaders of the movement later called upon people to check-in as a show of solidarity.
Deaken Boggs, senior natural resources planning major, said, “Being in school here, I really can’t take the time off to go out there and protest in person. So being able to have some solidarity action was really cool.”
Despite over 30,000 people using Facebook to show their support to those at the camp, the event failed to show up as trending news on Facebook. The seven-month long pipeline protest has been ignored by mass media despite the 2,000 people currently at the Standing Rock Camp.
Novivki said, “I truly believe it made a difference. The minute I checked in at Standing Rock, my mom, sister and friends asked what I was doing out there on a Monday. This then opened the door to tell them the importance to stand with Standing Rock.”
The Facebook check-ins themselves may not have done much as the original plan to confuse police, but it did raise support for stopping the pipeline all across the country.
Since the mass check-in, there have been hundreds of actions across the United States backing the protesters at Standing Rock.
On Friday, Nov. 4, a group of about 100 people gathered at the sundial on UW-Stevens Point’s campus to show support, respect and appreciation for those protesting in North Dakota.
Next week on Nov. 11 there will be a donation drive at the sundial for winter equipment for those at the Sacred Stone camp.