The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cracking down on Dakota Access Pipeline opponents who have been illegally camping in federal lands since August.
In a November 25th letter to Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault, Omaha District Commander Colonel John Henderson said the area, which is home to the Oceti Sakowin camp, will be closed to public access starting on December 5th due to safety concerns stemming from oncoming winter weather and recent clashes with law enforcement officials.
Not surprisingly, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other protest organizers have vowed to remain at their camp, which has been the subject of increased scrutiny following revelations that permanent structures are being built in violation of federal law.
North Dakota’s top elected officials welcomed the Army Corps’ move to evict protesters, but also questioned whether the Obama Administration would follow through and enforce the order.
“The decision by the Army Corps is a needed step to support the safety of residents, workers, protestors, and law enforcement,” said North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp. “Safety must remain the top priority for everyone, and to help make that possible, it’s critical protestors peacefully and lawfully move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River and to the identified federal and tribal lands.”
Senator John Hoeven also backed the decision to require pipeline opponents to leave federal lands north of the Cannonball River. “In light of violent protest activity, the Corps has taken a necessary step to protect public safety. Now, the protesters should respect the law and peacefully leave the protest area,” he said in a statement. “Now, state, local, tribal and federal authorities need to coordinate their efforts to help ensure that the protesters comply and leave.”
Governor Jack Dalrymple responded to the Army Corps’ decision Saturday, saying it will be up to the federal government to enforce the eviction notice. “Our state and local law enforcement agencies continue to do all they can to keep private property and public infrastructure free from unpermitted protest activities, and it’s past time that the federal government provides the law enforcement resources needed to support public safety and to enforce their own order to vacate,” Dalrymple said in a statement.
The Army Corps said Sunday that it “has no plans for forcible removal” of protesters who remain after the December 5th deadline, suggesting that the eviction notice merely serves as hollow political rhetoric. If this is true, it would represent yet another disturbing example of Obama Administration’s complete disregard for the rule of law. It begs the question, why have rules if they aren’t enforced?