CANNON BALL, N.D. A few dozen demonstrators
opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline defied a Wednesday
deadline to leave a protest camp they have occupied for months
to demand an end to construction of the project, saying they
were prepared to be arrested.
President Donald Trump has pushed for the completion of the
multibillion-dollar pipeline since he took office last month,
despite objections from Native Americans and environmental
activists who say it threatens the water resources and sacred
land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Republican Governor Doug Burgum and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers had set a 2 p.m. CST (2000 GMT) deadline for
protesters to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp, located on Army
Corps land in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
As freezing rain and snow fell, some demonstrators
ceremonially burned tents and other structures at the camp in
what they said was a tradition before leaving a dwelling place.
But others said they were going nowhere.
Around three dozen protesters gathered near the camp
entrance as the deadline passed. About 20 police vehicles waited
up the road and a few dozen protesters remained in other parts
of the camp, a Reuters witness said.
“I feel as though now is the time to stand our ground,” said
Alethea Phillips, 17, a demonstrator from Michigan who has spent
three months at the camp.
Chase Iron Eyes, a Standing Rock Sioux member, said the
detention of protesters would not dampen their determination.
“There are a lot of grandmothers, there are a lot of
women(at the camp). … There are people who have shown up to
stand in solidarity with them,” he said in a video broadcast. “You can’t arrest a movement. You can’t arrest a spiritual
Protesters and law enforcement have clashed multiple times
and hundreds of people have been arrested since demonstrations
began in August.
The Standing Rock Sioux asked protesters to leave the area
in December as they challenged the pipeline plans in court, but
some 300 demonstrators had remained.
Ed Higgins, a 39-year-old military veteran from Lowell,
Massachusetts, said he planned on getting arrested peacefully,
but was unsure how many other fellow protesters would be taken
into custody. “We will not know until it happens,” he said.
Law enforcement officials urged people to leave the camp
ahead of the deadline, saying they could be at risk from spring
floods, as well as to remove anything that could be damaged
during cleanup efforts.
The officials have agreed to a request by camp leaders that
only Native American cleanup crews be used. One activist,
HolyElk Lafferty, said she had asked that government-contracted
crews not begin their work until after the camp is cleared.
“It would raise the alarm and panic and not promote a
peaceful process today,” Lafferty said. “I want people to be
safe on both sides.”
State officials have set up a travel assistance center to provide departing protesters with food, water and health
check-ups, as well as a voucher for one night’s accommodation at
a Bismarck hotel and a bus ticket home.
“We’re making sure that we’re taking care of people that may
not have means,” said a spokesman for the state highway patrol,
Lieutenant Tom Iverson.
Trump, a Republican, signed an executive order clearing the
way for the $3.8 billion pipeline to proceed.
A judge denied a request earlier this month by two tribes
seeking to halt construction. The tribes are seeking an
injunction to order the Army Corps to withdraw the easement.
The pipeline will be complete and ready for oil between
March 6 and April 1, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
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