The situation at Standing Rock appears to be ramping back up following Trump’s controversial executive order, and it has been reported that over 70 protesters were arrested this week. The arrests came amid a raid on a secondary campsite that had been set up by protesters. According to law enforcement, the camp, labeled the “Last Child” Camp, was on higher ground than the still occupied main Oceti Sakowin Camp.
As KQED 2 reports, police say that the Last Child Camp occupants had been warned that the new camp full of Standing Rock protesters had been built on private land, unlike the primary camp which is located on federal land. Officers from the Morton County Sheriff’s Office claim that the protesters at the Last Child Camp at Standing Rock had been told that they needed to dismantle the camp and move out on multiple occasions, but that their orders were disregarded.
As CNN reports, the owners of the private property reportedly asked authorities to remove the Standing Rock protesters from their land, calling the group “trespassers.” The sheriff’s office says that the Standing Rock protesters were given time to do as requested, but ultimately “showed no signs” of packing up or moving away from the camp that had been erected on privately owned property.
Everything came to a head at about 4:00 p.m. on February 1. That’s when heavily armed officers from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department along with members of the National Guard reportedly showed up at the disputed Last Child Camp. Mother Jones reports that, according to eyewitnesses, the authorities were decked out with a convoy of military vehicles including bulldozers, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks, and Long Range Acoustic Device sound cannons, and they were prepared to arrest the hold-out Standing Rock protesters when they arrived.
It has been reported that 76 protesters were arrested for trespassing on private property; official charges have not yet been made public.
Some witnesses claim that the Morton County Sheriff’s Office and National Guard soldiers even burned and otherwise destroyed the tipis and other shelters being used by the Standing Rock protesters.
According to the North Dakota Joint Information Center, the protesters arrested at the Last Child Camp were acting in opposition to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been the backbone of the protests at standing rock, protests that began in direct opposition to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
“[Those arrested were among a] rogue group of protesters tried to establish a new illegal camp on private property, against the request of the tribal council and district leaders.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.8 billion, over-1,700-mile crude oil pipeline spanning four U.S. states. The pipeline is nearly complete, save for a final stretch under Lake Oahe, which provides drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. According to the tribe, they fear that the completion of the pipeline would compromise the safety of their water, and Standing Rock protesters have taken to calling themselves (and being called) “water protectors.”
According to the water protectors standing their ground at Standing Rock, the Dakota Access Pipeline not only threatens their water and the water of everyone living downstream along the Missouri River, but also their sacred sites.
Protests against the pipeline began early last year, and at first primarily included members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who set up a camp near the disputed final segment of the pipeline. In addition to fighting against the pipeline on the ground, the tribe fought against the project (the brainchild of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners) in court.
@MotherJones This action by Trump is purely SELF-SERVING!— Joyce Sawyer (@JoyceSawyer18) February 3, 2017
@waternotoil tell all your people to be over the top vigilant..( Remember Kent State) ..— Studio_609 (@rickhar12) February 2, 2017
After being dealt a series of crushing legal blows, the Standing Rock cause began to garner national and even international attention. Protesters by the hundreds and even thousands showed up at the main camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Still, for months the demonstrations remained peaceful.
That all changed toward the end of 2016; that’s when things between the Standing Rock protesters and Morton County Sheriff’s Office (as well as private security firms) got ugly. Mass arrests were reported, traffic was blocked, vehicles and other property burned, and many protesters were even reportedly injured in escalating clashes.
In late 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (led by the Obama administration) announced that it was rescinding a necessary easement that would allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to be completed as planned under Lake Oahe. Energy Transfer Partners was advised to find an alternate route to finish the pipeline, and (at least momentarily), water protectors rejoiced.
However, the people behind the pipeline refused to be cowed. They promised that the pipeline would be finished along its planned route, and waited patiently for the Trump administration to take control of the U.S. Sure enough, as one of his first presidential actions, Trump decreed that the Dakota Access Pipeline (as well as the Keystone XL Pipeline) could and should be completed as planned.
Earlier this week, North Dakota lawmakers announced that they had gotten word that, despite the Standing Rock protesters’ efforts, the necessary easement would soon be granted to complete construction.
“[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.”
In response, Standing Rock protesters (and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) have vowed to stand their ground both on-site and through the court system. In addition, thousands of U.S. military veterans have promised to return to Standing Rock to act, once again, as a human shield for water protectors. The group Veterans Stand also believes that law enforcement and the military may be more hesitant to use violence on vets than protesters, as doing so could create a PR nightmare.
One day after it was announced that the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was expected to pick up where it left off over a month ago, Morton County law enforcement and the National Guard moved in and began arresting Standing Rock protesters by the dozens.
According to arrested Standing Rock protester, charges from this week’s arrest include “inciting a riot,” a class C felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years.***
[Featured Image by KXMB/AP Images]