Policing the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota has cost state taxpayers $22.3 million according to a press release put out Monday by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. Morton County, where most of the protests against the pipeline have taken place, has gathered resources from surrounding states to manage the protests.
At one point last year some estimates put the total number of protesters in the main camp at several thousand. Those numbers dropped as winter weather rolled in and the Army Corps of Engineers denied a final easement needed to complete the project.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, a total of 181,232 hours have been spent responding to the protests over 153 days. There are 91 state agencies and 33 out of state agencies from 9 other states providing personnel and support. Thus far 581 arrests have been made, with 94.5% of those arrested coming from outside the state. Of those arrested 182, or 33%, had prior criminal records.
The press release also suggests the protesters may have been involved in poaching. According to a footnote, “1 bull, 2 horses, 3 bison, 4 cows” have been killed and another 30 cows have gone missing. Three poaching investigations have been opened.
Finally, citing the North Dakota Department of Energy Resources, authorities estimates that 50 cars and 75 structures have been abandoned by protesters at the main camp.
It goes without saying that American have a right to protest but the aggressive civil disobedience practiced by the NoDAPL crowd often crosses the line and requires police to intervene. Recall that last year protesters were trying to set up a satellite camp on private property owned by the the development company.
The main protest camp is located on federal land which means local police do not have the authority to remove anyone. The Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter in November that asked protesters to leave but no enforcement action was taken. Some saw the letter as an attempt by federal authorities to limit their liability in case anyone became ill or was injured during the harsh North Dakota winter.
Jeff Delzer of the North Dakota House of Representatives tells the Seattle Times, “We’re not happy at all that the federal government is not ponying up.” He adds, “This should be their responsibility.”