Holdouts at Standing Rock who have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline have been dealt another blow, this time in the form of an emergency evacuation order issued by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Most remaining protesters at Standing Rock are residing in the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and now the Republican governor wants them out. And soon.
Remaining Standing Rock protesters at the camp have been told that they need to get out of the area “immediately,” reports RT, no later than February 22, according to the governor’s order. According to the Standing Rock eviction notice, the camp is now posing an ecological threat to the Missouri River due to waste left by the hundreds and even thousands of protesters who resided there to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline over the last year.
“Out of concern for the safety of people who are residing on US Army Corps of Engineers land in southern Morton County and to avoid an ecological disaster to the Missouri River.”
According to the statement issued by the North Dakota Governor’s Office, authorities have wanted Standing Rock protesters evicted from the area for months, at least since late November. That was the last time that the North Dakota state government formally evicted Standing Rock protesters from the disputed site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In that instance, however, a large group of U.S. military veterans descended on the protest camp from December 4-7 (December 7 being the date listed on the November eviction notice), and authorities backed off of their threats to have Standing Rock protesters removed from the site.
At the time of the previous eviction, Standing Rock protesters led largely by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, opponents to the Dakota Access Pipeline, were finally receiving some high-level political support for their cause after months of dedicated protests. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, led by the Obama administration, rescinded a vital easement required to finish the final disputed segment of the crude oil pipeline under Lake Oahe. Construction on the pipeline was halted, and protesters who had recently been clashing with authorities celebrated.
The Standing Rock protesters’ victory was short-lived, however. Energy Transfer Partners, the money behind the DAPL, vowed that the project would be completed as scheduled under the lake, sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. When Donald Trump took office in late January, one of his first acts as POTUS was to sign an executive order allowing the completion of the controversial pipeline.
The news that the remaining Standing Rock protesters have been targeted with an eviction notice is a crushing blow to so-called “water protectors” fighting for the clean water of the Standing Rock Sioux. And while such eviction has been threatened before, the Trump-era U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has signed off on the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The requisite Environmental Impact Study has been foregone, and contractors have been granted their easement (for the next three decades) and given the green light to reconvene construction on the project.
According to the North Dakota Governor’s Office, the eviction notice handed down to the Standing Rock protesters is related to the possible contamination of the Missouri River as a result of debris and pollution left behind by thousands of protesters. As the cruel North Dakota winter become spring and snow melts, the low-lying area of the protest camp is expected to flood, washing remnants of the protest camp (possibly even including human waste) into the river.
“With the amount of people that have been out there and the amount of estimated waste and trash out there, there is a good chance it will end up in the river if it is not cleaned up.“
@MyronDewey So sad, everyone there has put in so much time and effort to do the right thing— Beckie Blackburn (@BeckieBlackbur5) February 17, 2017
As ABC News reports, the North Dakota state government claims that the Standing Rock protest camp site isn’t being cleaned up fast enough, this despite extraordinary efforts undertaken by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe beginning in January to remove waste and leave the site pristine. Protesters and their advocates say that the situation isn’t nearly as bad or polluted at the holdout camps as the North Dakota Governor’s Office and other authorities are leading the public to believe.
The protest camp leadership shared a photo of the site on social media, illustrating the cleanup that has already been done at the site and promising more to come, all led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe, incidentally, asked protesters to leave the area weeks ago in order to facilitate the tribe-funded clean-up efforts after the harsh plains winter.
Despite photos showing a nearly-cleared-out site, the North Dakota governor admitted Thursday that he will be petitioning the feds for compensation to the tune of $33 million to cover expenses related to the Standing Rock protests, including law enforcement pay and cleanup efforts.
Some Standing Rock protesters attempted to rebuild a secondary camp on higher ground, near the primary Oceti Sakowin camp, in late January. They were met with massive government resistance and 76 water protectors were arrested in a raid on the newly constructed campsite.
According to media director of the Oceti Sakowin camp John Bigelow, a meeting to discuss the impending eviction involving the Standing Rock protesters, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Morton County Sheriff’s Office was held on Thursday. At the end of the meeting, in which the details of the evacuation order were discussed, the February 22 deadline to get out remained in place. According to Bigelow, tensions are running high and most protesters are simply trying to vacate the campsite.
“Most folks are concentrating on breaking down their camps to move out of Oceti Sakowin and either back home or to one of the other camps that’s been set up.”
In recent days, the Standing Rock protests have, for the second time, garnered the support of U.S. military veterans who traveled to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with the water protectors. It is unknown what effect, if any, the vets’ presence could have on eviction efforts at the disputed site.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is still fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline in court, despite recent crushing legal blows. According to the tribe, even amid eviction efforts aimed at Standing Rock protesters, and even if the pipeline is completed and becomes operational, the tribe will “seek to shut the pipeline operations down.”
[Featured Image by David Goldman/File/AP Images]