Energy Transfer Partners, the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, has issued a statement warning that protesters must vacate its land immediately or they will be removed and prosecuted. However, local police say they don’t have the manpower to remove the protesters and have requested help from other states. From the Associated Press:
“Alternatively and in coordination with local law enforcement and county/state officials, all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land,” the statement said.
American Indians and others who oppose the construction of the four-state oil pipeline set up the new camp of tents and teepees Sunday, moving their long-running protest directly in the project’s path for the first time…
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said at a news conference Monday that authorities put out a call for help earlier this month and six states are sending officers. He would not say if the goal was to remove the protesters.
ETP says the land where protesters are currently setting up camp was recently purchased by the developer from a private rancher. However, a protest organizer issued a statement saying, “We never ceded this land.” Some of the protesters at the site are Native Americans who claim historical ownership of some of the land the pipeline is passing through.
All of this follows a contentious protest over the weekend during which 127 protesters were arrested. From CNN:
About 300 protesters trespassed Saturday on private property three miles west of State Highway 1806, along the pipeline right of way, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said. At least 127 were arrested on various charges, including reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, engaging in a riot, assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest.
The activists, who call themselves “water protectors,” said they were staging a peaceful procession in honor of sacred sites already destroyed in construction. They accused law enforcement of spraying them with Mace and throwing people to the ground “without provocation” as they attempted to leave, according to a joint statement from three groups.
But local police say the protest is neither peaceful nor lawful:
Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier saw the arrests in another light. Some protesters used bicycle locks and makeshift handcuffs to attach themselves to construction equipment and vehicles, the department said. Some cut holes in doors and put their arms through them covered in concrete casts, fusing their arms to the door.
“Today’s situation clearly illustrates what we have been saying for weeks: that this protest is not peaceful or lawful,” he said. “This protest was intentionally coordinated and planned by agitators with the specific intent to engage in illegal activities.”
As Jazz pointed out this weekend, there is a report saying DOJ is intentionally holding back on offering the local police additional resources to control the protesters. That’s true even though the protesters have been using federal land as a staging area for protests and even though protesters recently started fires that did significant damage to construction equipment.