Two men take shifts watching over a small table at the entrance of Bangkok Cafe while mingling through the crowd. Both look slightly alert but relaxed, enjoying the result of their work.
Samuel Levitt, a history major, and William Rittenhouse, an early childhood education major, are the founders of Students for Standing Rock, an organization created to help fight the Dakota Access Pipeline and support the people of Standing Rock.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, Students for Standing Rock held a benefit concert to raise money in support of Standing Rock protesters.
“I had wanted to hold some protests around town,” Rittenhouse said of the founding of his organization. “The only people that were really interested were Sam and a mutual friend.”
The lack of popularity for traditional protests led Levitt and Rittenhouse to organize benefit concerts through Students for Standing Rock in an effort to raise money for those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The sizable crowd at their latest rally proves that the format is succeeding in garnering attention and introducing more and more people to their organization and its mission.
“I thought it was a great format because it raised awareness and supported the protests at Standing Rock, but it didn’t heavily push a political agenda,” said Chris Rothwell, an economics and international relations major. “I had a lot of fun.”
With a lineup of local bands, Levitt and Rittenhouse managed to attract crowds while also benefitting their cause. The organization is looking to expand their events to new venues and connect with more acts.
“We’re hoping to do more,” Levitt said. “There’s an ambition to do a couple this semester to raise more money and maybe even team up with opponents of the Pilgrim Pipeline.”
In addition to their concerts, which they hope to organize for every other Saturday starting with the show on Feb. 4, Students for Standing Rock has a table at the weekly farmer’s market on campus. They accept donations and sell small trinkets, made by Newburgh-based artist Emma Millen, to raise money outside of their events.
Despite successful turnouts for their shows and a growing network of supporters, the organization has recently faced a set back with President Trump’s executive order permitting the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“It basically means we’re right back where we started. When the protests started in Standing Rock last spring, there was a build up of momentum,” Levitt said. “Trump’s executive order simply resumes the same fight.”
Students for Standing Rock intend to continue that fight through their own local outreach and events.
“I think the main thing, as the saying goes, is think globally, act locally,” Levitt said. “This past election, while being largely disastrous, had many people feeling sedentary prior to it where now they’re more willing to go out. They feel that there’s much more on the line.”
Students for Standing Rock will host their next show on Saturday, Feb. 18.