A secondary Standing Rock protest camp has reportedly been evicted by police in the midst of cleanup efforts at the disputed Dakota Access Pipeline site. The Standing Rock protest area cleanup has been spearheaded by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which organized the protests that drew thousands of people to North Dakota throughout 2016.
As ABC News reports, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault admits that the area where opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been camped out for months is a mess. Not only that, much of the debris left behind by protesters has been buried under snow.
Efforts to clean up the Standing Rock site are expected to take weeks, with some of the largest debris left behind consisting of vehicles.
While thousands of water protector protesters called the Standing Rock site home at the peak of the anti-DAPL protests, the crowds have reportedly thinned down considerably in recent days and weeks. The reason? Treacherous winter weather, the Obama administration’s halt of pipeline construction, and calls by the Standing Rock Sioux tribal leadership to get out of the area, at least for now.
“There’s more than anticipated, and it’s under a lot of snow. I wouldn’t say it’s going to get done in days; it’s going to take weeks.”
The area of the Standing Rock protest camp is located near where the Cannonball River flows into Missouri and is prone to flooding. Water protectors involved in the protests want to ensure that the area is cleaned up before spring runoff can wash debris and other contaminants into the Missouri River, which is the source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as millions of others downstream.
In fact, it is the commitment to keeping the Missouri River water clean and drinkable that is at the root of the Standing Rock protests. Water protectors fear that the controversial, $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline may burst or leak in the future, contaminating the water of the Sioux and countless others. The four-state project, backed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, is nearly completed. It needs only the final stretch, which runs under Lake Oahe, to be completed to become operational.
The problem? Lake Oahe is an artificial lake created by the damming of the Missouri River, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters fear the environmental impact that would result from a leak at the location.
The land in question belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who had at one time granted an easement to the folks behind the controversial pipeline. Late in 2016, before President Obama vacated the White House, the Corps rescinded that easement, telling Energy Transfer Partners to look into an alternate route. However, as one of his first acts as POTUS, Donald Trump ordered that the pipeline could be completed as planned. While the Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to continue fighting, it appears that construction will be green-lighted in the near future.
Amid all of the controversy, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been cleaning up after their protest efforts, moving remaining protesters to a camp on higher ground. Nicknamed the “Last Child” camp, the new encampment would keep the Standing Rock protesters out of the way of floodwaters and give them space to clean up the main camp. A project, incidentally, that tribal leaders haven’t asked for help from the State of North Dakota or Morton county to complete.
Even so, reports The Canadian Press, law enforcement did show up during the cleanup process. And rather than help Standing Rock protesters with their efforts, the police in military gear reportedly evicted remaining protesters from their new “Lost Child” camp, a camp that has been described as nothing more than a “peaceful assembly.” Those at Standing Rock report that in addition to police in riot gear, the Standing Rock camp was raided by members of the National Guard, and that armored military vehicles were used.
Reportedly, the police intervention on Wednesday was little more than a raid, and at least one impacted protester was able to livestream video of the militarized law enforcement officers threateningly evicting remaining water protectors from the disputed site.
According to social media reports, not only are police evicting and even arresting holdout Standing Rock protesters, they are even burning their shelters and destroying everything in their path.
While Sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller claims that only two protesters were arrested today, Standing Rock protesters with boots on the ground say that the number of arrested water protectors is closer to 50, perhaps even more. In addition, protesters claim that many efforts to livestream the controversial eviction efforts were blocked.
According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, the new Standing Rock protest camp was erected on private property, property belonging to the Dakota Access Pipeline developer. Not surprisingly, the developer behind the disputed project is disinclined to be lenient with protesters after months of pipeline construction delays.
It is certainly no coincidence that the hush-hush and reportedly fiery evictions came the same day that it was widely reported that the necessary Lake Oahe easement is a sure thing, at least according to Republican North Dakota Senator John Hoeven.
“[Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer.] has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
So far, there has been no official announcement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. However, water protectors and protesters at Standing Rock have vowed to continue their protest efforts (both on site and via the legal system) to ensure that their water and sacred sites stay safe and unmolested. A group of U.S. military veterans numbering in the thousands has even offered to “re-deploy” to Standing Rock to stand between Native American protesters and law enforcement, if needed.
***Update: Fox News confirms that 76 water protectors were arrested at Standing Rock on February 1. According to North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum’s office, those arrested were a “rogue group of some of the more aggressive elements of the protest camp.” The governor’s office added that they were “attempting to create a new campsite on private property” near Standing Rock.***
[Featured Image by David Goldman/AP Images]