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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Unlike Ouster of Rancher Protesters, Feds Won’t Evict Violent Pipeline Protesters From Federal Land

Private security guards in pick-up trucks drive away as Native Americans protestors and their supporters advance on land designated for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after protestors confronted contractors and private security guards working on the oil pipeline project, forcing them to retreat, September 3, 2016, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Hundreds of Native American protestors and their supporters, who fear the Dakota Access Pipeline will polluted their water, forced construction workers and security forces to retreat and work to stop.

Hundreds of members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and armed environmental activists have been camping out the last two months on federal lands in North Dakota and Iowa, protesting the construction of the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline. The protests have resulted in violence, with both sides blaming the other.

Members of the tribe say the pipeline endangers sacred sites near its reservation and endangers the tribe’s water supply, and that the construction company has already destroyed sacred sites. (The tribe’s “media backgrounder” can be found here.) However, according to The Daily Caller, “Archaeologists inspected the 1.3-mile section along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline in southern North Dakota, and found no signs Native American tribal artifacts are present, despite what protesters argue.”

Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen of North Dakota sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing his concerns about their guns. “They are armed, hostile, and engaged in training exercises which can only be intended to promote violence, whether on Corps property or elsewhere.” Dealing with the protesters also costs law enforcement extra money for overtime.

Yet federal agents say they have no intention of removing the trespassers, declaring they have a free speech right to be on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ land. The Corps has encouraged the protesters to move to adjacent land where they have a permit to stay, but they refuse.

North Dakota’s sole US representative, Republican Kevin Cramer, says the encampment is illegal and accuses the feds of looking the other way. "If that camp was full of people advocating for fossil fuels, they would have been removed by now," he said. "There is some discretionary enforcement going on."

Violent Protesters

The protests have blocked work from progressing on parts of the pipeline. The construction in Iowa was forced to shut down briefly when protesters dismantled part of the fence around the construction site. In Missouri, twelve protesters chained themselves to construction equipment there, resulting in multiple arrests for criminal trespass.

Each weekend, more protesters arrive at the encampments. In Iowa, they are organized by the group Mississippi Stand. So far, more than 130 protesters have been arrested in Iowa and North Dakota, mostly for trespassing. Many volunteer to be arrested, knowing there will be few ramifications; law enforcement merely places the activists in plastic handcuffs, books them, then releases them immediately to go back and protest some more.

The Obama administration has stopped any building of the pipeline on federal lands, so developers are continuing the construction on private, state or local government land. The pipeline will carry oil 1,200 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa. Pipeline officials say it will reduce energy dependence on foreign oil, and will generate $55 million annually in property taxes. There are up to 7.4 billion barrels of oil in North Dakota’s Bakken region.

The pipeline was supposed to be completed by the end of the year, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit put a halt on part of the construction while considering a lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The lengths to which the government has gone to appease the environmental protesters is astounding. If Native Americans can care about the land, why not ranchers?

Dakota Access pipeline

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