Dalrymple: Feds need to lead move to close Dakota Access protest camps
BISMARCK -- North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple is calling on the federal government to take the lead in closing Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps on federal land.
BISMARCK - North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple is calling on the federal government to take the lead in closing Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps on federal land.
Dalrymple said in a news release issued Saturday the camps on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer land should be closed to protesters due to ongoing safety concerns and serious health risk to those camping in sub-freezing weather.
“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. “For more than 100 days now, the federal government has allowed protesters to illegally entrench themselves on Corps land, and it is the federal government’s responsibility to lead the camp’s peaceful closure.”
Dakota Access has been the center of protests that have resulted in hundreds of arrests, injuries, damaged property and more than $10 million in law enforcement-related costs for North Dakota. The pipeline, which would cross the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, would ship oil pulled from the Bakken Formation in western North Dakota to Patoka, Ill.
Protesters fear a leak could pollute the Missouri River, and others have been critical of law enforcement’s handling of the situation, calling some tactics, such as the use of rubber bullets and water cannons, aggressive.
The release comes hours after Dave Archambault II, chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, announced in a news release the Corps’ intent to close public access to the agency’s land, and in turn the Oceti Sakowin camp, by Dec. 5. The camp was established in August in southern Morton County and holds an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people.
Archambault’s statement Friday, Nov. 25, the same day as the arrest of dozens of protesters at the Kirkwood Mall, highlights the chairman’s concerns about protecting people during the winter and reducing the risk of conflict between “water protectors and militarized police.”
“Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our best resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever,” Archambault said in the statement as he asked the government to stop the pipeline’s construction and move it outside “ancestral and treaty lands.”
The Corps has established a “free speech” zone for protesters, according to Archambault’s letter to the agency’s district manager, Col. John Henderson.
Dalrymple and other North Dakota leaders have asked President Barack Obama to make a decision on the pipeline’s easement, which is under review by his administration. In his Saturday statement, Dalrymple said more delays do “nothing but prolong and intensify the public safety issues imposed on Morton County and the state of North Dakota.”
More reaction Others have reacted to the news that the camp will be closed.
U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, both of North Dakota, praised the Corps for its decision to close the camp, calling it a step to support the safety of everyone involved. Earlier this week Hoeven, along with Dalrymple and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., announced they had asked the Obama Administration to make a speedy decision on the pipeline’s easement. Heitkamp, who did not sign the letter, also issued her own statement saying she had spoken with a White House adviser and urged the Obama Administration to act on the easement.
Heitkamp, who did not sign the letter, also issued her own statement saying she had spoken with a White House adviser and urged the Obama Administration to act on the easement.
“Now, the protesters should respect the law and peacefully leave the protest area,” Hoeven said in a statement. “The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are willing to commit acts of violence.”
Heitkamp also called on protesters to remain peaceful and move off Corps land.
“There has been an escalation of violence among some of the protestors that puts their lives, as well as the lives of law enforcement, residents and landowners in jeopardy,” she said in her statement. “We will continue to work together in a bipartisan way to make sure the Corps’ decision is adhered to and that all North Dakotans are protected.”
The Indigenous Environmental Network, a group that has supported protesters, called the Corps’ decision to close the camp “short-sighted and dangerous,” adding the agency should stop the pipeline’s construction north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation if it wants to keep people safe.
“We have already seen critical injuries cased by the actions of a militarized law enforcement,” IEN officials said in a statement Saturday. “We implore President Obama and the White House to take corrective measures and to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline once and for all.”