President Obama has spoken. He has spoken through the Army Corps of Engineers, and what he has said is “get off your land.” The eviction is set to take effect on December 5, one day after hundreds of military veterans are set to arrive at Standing Rock in order to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors.
Jordan Chariton, of The Young Turks, tweeted the announcement released by the corps, which makes it clear that the federal government has no intention of standing up to Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the DAPL.
“The Corps of Engineers has established a free speech zone on land south of the Cannonball River for anyone wishing to peaceably protest the Dakota Access pipeline project, subject to the rules of 36 C.F.R. Part 327. Any person found to be on the Corps’ lands north of the Cannonball River after December 5, 2016, will be considered trespassing and may be subject to prosecution under federal, state, and local laws. Furthermore, any person who chooses to stay on these Corps’ lands north of the Cannonball River does so at their own risk, and assumes any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupation of such lands.”
The statement then indicated that the protestors at Standing Rock are guilty of several violations of Title 36 that include unauthorized structures, fires, and camping.
The self-deployment of hundreds of military veterans led by Wesley Clark, Jr., and Michael A. Wood, Jr. has gained nationwide attention, with even CNN reporting on the veterans’ preparations to defend the DAPL protestors. Therefore, the eviction notice seems to be timed to reduce the effectiveness and strength of the veterans’ efforts to protect the water protectors.
As reported in a prior piece, law enforcement has become increasingly more violent toward the protestors, and even seriously injured several. One young woman, Sophia Wilansky, was hit with a concussion grenade in her arm, causing her to undergo a partial amputation.
Wilansky’s father, Wayne, discussed what was happening to the Standing Rock DAPL protestors. In a video interview, he alleged that law enforcement agents were deliberately aiming rubber bullets at men’s crotches, his daughter was one of several people who were hit in the groin.
Online news outlet Unicorn Riot has covered the DAPL protests at Standing Rock for several months. The independent news outlet posted Wayne Wilanksy’s press conference, in which he described the gruesome details of his daughter’s injury.
“The force of the explosion blew the bone out of her arm and all of the arteries and all of the muscle.”
Wilansky believes people will start dying at Standing Rock as a result of law enforcement’s excessive use of force against the unarmed protestors, which gives a deeper purpose for the military veterans who are preparing to head to Standing Rock next week. The veterans have said they will stand as a shield, unarmed, against the various law enforcement agencies that have used water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets. They will attempt to break through the police barricade and link arms around the drilling pad.
The DAPL is planned to run beneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, which provide water for the people of Standing Rock. The river also serves as a water source for millions of people downriver, and its planned installment under two major water sources is a point of contention.
The original planned route of the DAPL was rejected due to concerns over possible water contamination in predominantly white areas, yet the current route was approved to go beneath a lake and a river that sits on Sioux land.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has issued an official response to the eviction notice, saying they are disappointed in the U.S. government’s decision and asking that the easement for drilling beneath Lake Oahe be denied.
“The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now.”
Military news source Task & Purpose discussed the preparations with Wood and Clark, who said they are planning the deployment like a real military unit. The veterans will also wear their old uniforms during their activities so that if law enforcement engages them, “they are brutalized not as ordinary citizens, but as people who once served the government they are protesting against.”
This raises the question of whether the Army Corps of Engineers is worried about the optics of military veterans standing against police forces against corporate and government interests. It is also possible that Wayne Wilansky is right; that people may die at Standing Rock, and those people may end up being the military veterans who are committed to putting their safety and lives on the line to protect our water, and the sacred land of the Sioux.
[Featured Image by James McPherson/AP Images]