Police arrested 76 people Wednesday night near Standing Rock, North Dakota, after pipeline protesters set up a new camp across the highway from the main camp that has been opposing the Dakota Access project.
Police say they moved in on the “rogue” group because they were on private land.
Since April, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies, who call themselves water protectors, have been battling the completion of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which will carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day through four states. They say it will destroy sacred Native American burial sites, and poison the area’s water supply if it ruptures.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe “coordinated with law enforcement” to remove the camp Wednesday, the Morton County Sheriff’s office said in a statement. The arrests bring the total number to nearly 700 since August 10.
“They wanted to inspire the world to respect treaty rights, to respect Native people’s right to a better way of life,” Linda Black Elk said in a Facebook live video, referring to the people who set up the new camp. “Let’s be real: that’s treaty land.”
But in a statement, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II said the new camp, the Last Child Camp, “undermines” the tribe’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which he said is no longer being waged on the ground, but instead in federal court. In mid-January, the Standing Rock tribe voted to ask the protesters to leave the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, which was established in April.
“Those who planned to occupy the new camp are putting all of our work at risk,” the Chairman said.
Police arrested over 70 protesters, who call themselves water protectors, near the construction site last night. Media reports cited witnesses as saying that police had armored trucks and sound cannons on site. AIUSA has previously stated that police have a duty to protect the right to free expression and to de-escalate tensions.Confronting protesters with equipment better suited for a battlefield is an inappropriate response that will ultimately make the situation less safe for everyone.
The arrests came amid mounting tensions in the 10-month-long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered by the Trump administration to push forward on the Dakota Access Pipeline, just one week after president Donald Trump signed an executive order advancing the pipeline. They are expected to issue the easement within days, according to North Dakota Senator John Hoeven.
Hoeven told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the Acting Secretary of the Army has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to grant a key easement that the pipeline needs to pass under Lake Oahe, which is the only barrier to the project’s completion.
In a statement Thursday, Amnesty International urged the government not to allow construction to resume until an environment impact review is completed and the Sioux tribe grants “free, prior and informed consent” to the project.
“Media reports cited witnesses as saying that police had armored trucks and sound cannons on site,” it noted in a statement. “Confronting protesters with equipment better suited for a battlefield is an inappropriate response that will ultimately make the situation less safe for everyone.”
The tribe has vowed to fight the easement in court, if the Army Corps of Engineers grants it in the coming days.
When news of the Trump administration’s intent to grant the easement emerged Tuesday, the Sacred Stone Camp called on allies to return to camp, although the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked protesters in mid January to pack up and leave.
“Yesterday, some took advantage of the impending easement and used it as a call back to camp,” the chairman said in a statement Wednesday. “Please, once again, we ask that people do not return back to camp. The fight is no longer here, but in the halls and courts of the federal government. Here at the camp, those who remain should be working together to clean and restore the land.”