Last Friday the Army Corps of Engineers sent protesters a letter informing them that the public land on which they have been camping for months already will be closed as of December 5th. That means that after that date everyone who remains at the main protest camp will, at least in theory, be trespassing and could be arrested.
However, it seems there is much less to the action by the Army Corps than it first appeared. Sunday the Army Corps of Engineers issued a statement saying it had “no plans for forcible removal.” In other words, the protesters may be trespassing in theory once the deadline passes, but no one is going to enforce it.
The Army Corps of Engineers “is basically kicking the can down the road, and all it is doing is taking the liability from the Corps and putting it on” the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said…
County and state officials have been seeking federal law enforcement help for months and were initially buoyed by the Corps’ order for protesters to move off the land. The agency’s later announcement that it would not forcibly evict any demonstrators dampened hopes that the issue would soon be resolved, Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz said.
“It’s useless for local and state law enforcement, and the order from the Corps is self-serving and amounts to them limiting their liability,” Schulz said.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple criticized the move, telling the AP, “Clearly the responsibility of clearing that land now lies primarily with the Corps.”
What the feds won’t do the winter weather might. There was much consternation a week ago when police sprayed water on protesters who approached their line. At the time it was only about 20 degrees outside. But that could seem balmy by next month. There is a snow storm hitting the area this week and the current forecast is for a high of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in Cannonball, ND next Thursday. The low that night is forecast as -2 degrees. That will test the resolve of the protesters far more than anything the police can do.
In addition, authorities will not be plowing the road for a mile leading up to the protest camp. That will make it a lot more difficult for anyone hoping to bring in reinforcements or supplies.
Update: The Governor has ordered the protesters to vacate public land. But as described above, he has no ability to enforce his order:
Dalrymple’s order signed Monday, Nov. 28, states that people camping in areas near the Cannonball River are ordered to leave immediately and take their possessions with them…
However, the state does not have plans to remove people from the site, [the governor’s spokesman Jeff] Zent said.
“We’re not going to go in and make arrests and forcibly remove everybody that’s on that site,” Zent said. “We fully expect the federal government to take the lead on the management of their property.”
So another declaration that the protesters will ignore.