The Dakota Access Pipeline protest has been raging for months now, headed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and aided by hundreds of people from across the nation, including some famous faces. The protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a controversial crude oil pipeline slated to span four states and thousands of miles, began as a largely peaceful effort. However, in recent weeks it has devolved into unimaginable violence as protesters refuse to back down and police employ increasingly militarized tactics to “protect” the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The reason for the protest is two-fold, and also much, much more. While the Dakota Access Pipeline doesn’t directly trespass on current reservation land, in many places it abuts it; it also crosses ancient tribal land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. According to the tribe, the construction of the pipeline is destroying sacred ancient sites and burial grounds.
What’s more, the tribe (and other protesters) claim that the Dakota Access Pipeline compromises safe, clean drinking water. With a route that dives under major rivers and channels, including the Missouri River, many believe that it is simply unsafe and has the potential to create an ecological disaster on a massive scale.
Last Friday, in the aftermath of weeks of escalating bloody violence at the Dakota Access Pipeline site, Army Corps of Engineers announced that Dakota Access Pipeline protesters must vacate the area near the Cannonball River in North Dakota. As CNN the area has become the site of multiple clashes and is being used as campsite for hundreds of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters. According to the Corps’ edict, Dakota Access Pipeline protesters have until December 5 to get off the land or be arrested.
“[Those who stay] do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas. Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state or local laws.”
Neither the ND Governor nor the USACE have said how their eviction notices will be enforced beyond threat of penalty. #standingrock— Tim Fontaine (@anishinaboy) November 29, 2016
@NewsHour mean while same pipeline has explosion in Pennsylvania affecting over 100k drinking water— GWIZ (@gwitzel) November 28, 2016
The reason cited for the eviction is the looming North Dakota winter, a bitter, freezing and brutal season. Just weeks ago, in sub-freezing temperatures, Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were attacked by police with water cannons, and many suffered cold-related injuries and hospitalization.
According to the Corps, they want to keep people safe from escalating violence. The Corps further labels those who refuse to leave “trespassers,” adding they will be subject to all local, state and federal trespassing laws and penalties.
The government has promised to provide evicted protesters with a nearby “free speech zone,” sparking outrage, as the entire United States is Constitutionally designated as a “free speech zone.”
Despite the threatening eviction notice, Dakota Access Pipeline protesters (led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its leaders) say they aren’t going anywhere, reports CNN. According to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault, the Dakota Access Pipeline protest will continue throughout the harsh North Dakota Winter. Tribe member Chase Iron Eyes summed it up succinctly.
“We are in for the long haul.”
As the Free Thought Project reports, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier and many of his people are part of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, and he issued a public response to the offensive eviction threat, a response that has since gone viral and been copied personally to the highest-ranking members of the U.S. government.
“The area north of the Cannonball River is both the ancestral homeland of the Lakota people and inside the boundaries of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, a treaty that has not been abrogated and law that governs us all. The best of these lands have already been unjustly taken and flooded by the Corps in the disastrous Pick-Sloane legislation. We will no longer allow our rights as a Tribe or as indigenous people as a whole to continue to be eroded.
“I take your letter as issuing a direct and irresponsible threat to the water protectors.It appears to further empower the militarized police force that has been brutalizing and terrorizing our water protectors while imposing the blame and the risk on unarmed peaceful people. We have pleaded for the protection of the United States. Your letter makes a grave and dangerous mistake.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline protests have now resulted in hundreds of injuries to protesters at the hands of militarized police, some of which have been severe. As CNN reports, one protester, Sophia Wilansky, nearly lost her arm in what has been described as a “concussion grenade” explosion. Police say that they did not use concussion grenades against protesters, but protesters claim otherwise, and to have witnesses.
Militarized police also stand accused of employing pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannons against protesters, sparking claims of human rights violations at Standing Rock.
Since the eviction of the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and the tribe’s subsequent response, the Army Corps of Engineers’ threat has been walked back considerably. Now, the Corps says it has no plans to forcibly remove protesters. However, the Governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple does want the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters gone, and he wants them gone now. Citing the impending winter weather and potential building code violations among the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters (many of whom are living in temporary shelters such as trailers), Dalrymple has told the Standing Rock Sioux and other to get out, not by December 5, but as soon as possible.
While he didn’t threaten forcible arrest, the governor did issue a dire warning to those who stick around. Apparently, they will no longer be served by first responders in case of emergency.
Still, the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters vow to stand their ground and stay the course.
Particularly because protesters are expected to get a huge influx of trained and capable support on or around December 4. That’s when, as CNN reports, hundreds of veterans have vowed to “deploy” to the Dakota Access Pipeline site and join the #NoDAPL efforts. The event is called “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” and the mission is simple.
“[To] assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia [and to] defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security.”
According to organizers, they want to both protest the pipeline and draw attention to the plight of the protesters as well as the controversial $3.7 billion project.
Many fear that the addition of hundreds of vets to the powder keg of irate protesters (particularly if there’s an eviction crackdown on December 5) could be the spark that ignites the Dakota Access Pipeline protests into something much more dangerous and explosive.
[Featured Image by Morton County Sheriff’s Department/AP Photo]