Despite two separate eviction notices in the last week, pipeline protesters at Standing Rock (led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) are settling in for a long, cold North Dakota winter at the protest site. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other protesters were hit with a double whammy of bad news over the last few days, with the first coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps told the protesters that they had to be off the disputed land that has become the Standing Rock protesters‘ main camp by December 5. Tribal leaders received a letter from the Corps advising them to get themselves, tribe members, and other protesters off the land; the letter further warned that anyone who sticks around beyond December 5 will be considered a trespasser and subject to (potentially severe) local, state, and federal penalties.
The reason for the eviction was boiled down to “public safety,” citing an impending potentially hazardous winter, as well as the fact that Standing Rock protesters are occupying lands intended for grazing and/or being designated as having purposes as part of the Corps’ land management practices (i.e., future home of the Dakota Access pipeline). Standing Rock protesters were promised access to a nearby “free speech zone” to continue their efforts away from the pipeline front line.
Many believe the eviction threat to be related to the increasing level of violence that has been occurring between law enforcement and protesters. For months the Standing Rock protests were peaceful, but they have now devolved substantially, and increasing accounts of violence and protesters being injured at the hands of militarized police have been rolling in.
Not surprisingly, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s elders and the rest of the Standing Rock protesters declined the November 25 eviction notice, vowing to continue to stand for water rights and against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On Monday, the Standing Rock protesters got more bad news, this time from North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple. As Aljazeera reports, the governor’s order was worded a bit differently than the rejected order from the Army Corps of Engineers. According to Dalrymple, he wants the thousands of predominantly Native American Standing Rock protesters off disputed land solely to protect them from the impending harsh winter.
Called an “emergency evacuation order,” Dalrymple’s decree ordered protesters off the Corps land immediately.
@HuffingtonPost boy am I sick of the protesters! Time to take a shower and find a job!— CapeCodCannibal (@CapeCannibal) November 29, 2016
Thus far, the biggest danger to Standing Rock protesters has come from militarized police, who sprayed many of them down with water canons just over a week ago. The hosing took place in sub-freezing weather, and resulted in dozens of protesters requiring emergency medical treatment for hypothermia and other cold-related conditions.
Despite the renewed efforts to remove the Standing Rock protesters, the government (both state and federal) is claiming that there are no plans to forcibly evict demonstrators, and the protesters at Standing Rock have adamantly refused to vacate the area.
Early Tuesday, thousands at Standing Rock got devastating and potentially deal-breaking news. As Reuters reports, that is when an announcement was made by Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Maxine Herr. According to Herr, the supply lines to the Standing Rock protesters were about to be cut off. She told the protesters and the world that, per the governor’s “emergency evacuation order,” food, building materials, and other vital supplies would be blocked by law enforcement from getting to the disputed main Standing Rock camp.
Fortunately for Standing Rock protesters, a governor spokesman refuted the blockade threat by Tuesday afternoon. Jeff Zent minced no words when he stated that Herr had been mistaken when issuing her threat against the Standing Rock protesters and their supply line.
“There is not going to be any blockade of supplies.”
Due to the high-level denouncement of the Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s plans to block Standing Rock protester’s supplies, Maxine Herr addressed the conflicting reports via telephone.
“That is the understanding that we had initially but we had to get that clarified. The governor is more interested in public safety than setting up a road block and turning people away.”
North Dakota governor allows supplies and food to continue flowing to protesters in Standing Rock after an attempted blockade. pic.twitter.com/7L5viIDLnE— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 29, 2016
She added that while the blockade isn’t happening, those trying to get supplies into the disputed Standing Rock encampment could face other, “more passive” obstacles to keeping the protesters fed and warm in the midst of the North Dakota winter. According to Herr, Morton County law enforcement (and possibly other law enforcement agencies) will now be stopping vehicles that “appear to be headed” to the Standing Rock Camp.
Drivers will be informed that they are violating the law and could face fines of $1,000.
Some wonder if even the threat of targeting those that “appear to be” bringing supplies to the Standing Rock protesters could be considered a violation of federal law and even constitute racial profiling. The ACLU of North Dakota has asked anyone who who is targeted/pulled over/fined to contact the organization.
Have you been pulled over by police or given a fine for bringing goods/deliveries to Standing Rock? Email us: email@example.com #NoDAPL— ACLU of North Dakota (@ACLUNorthDakota) November 29, 2016
Government officials have warned Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock that if they refuse to heed the eviction demand, they are doing so at their own risk. Emergency services will not be available to the Standing Rock protesters at the disputed site as the winter weather progresses. This means that those taking a stand at Standing Rock will be cut off from fire and EMT services.
In the midst of days of escalating government orders and threats, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other protesters have refused to back down, claiming to be in it “for the long haul,” and taking seriously their sacred right and duty to protect their ancestral history and clean water from potentially devastating government (and oil company) encroachment.
In the next week, the Standing Rock protesters are expecting an influx of new support. U.S. military vets across the country have arranged to “deploy” to Standing Rock to aid protest efforts on December 4.
Thousands of vets could show up at the solidarity event “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock.” It is unknown whether or not these new addition to the protest will be subject to the mentioned $1,000 fine if they come to North Dakota loaded up with supplies for Standing Rock protesters.
[Featured Image by Morton County Sheriff’s Department/AP Images]