The ongoing protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline are drawing more than crowds of reporters and camera crews. The usual list of liberal suspects who seem to have unlimited time to march against injustice for months on end without losing their… jobs(?) have showed up near the pipeline construction zone and set up camp. Some of them are locals, including members of the affected tribes, but many are the usual imports who are ready to fight the man. They tend to live in makeshift camps wherever they go and in this case it’s a sprawling mass of tents and vehicles near the junction of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers. The problem is that a lot of them are on federal land without a permit. (AT&T Live News)

The sprawling encampment that’s a living protest against the four-state Dakota Access pipeline has most everything it needs to be self-sustaining — food, firewood, fresh water and shelter. Everything, that is, except permission to be on the federal land in North Dakota.

Federal officials say they won’t evict the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires camp, due to free speech reasons, even though it’s on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers that many Native Americans believe is still rightfully owned by the Standing Rock Sioux under a nearly 150-year-old treaty.

“We’re not leaving until we defeat this big black snake,” camp spokesman Cody Hall said of the pipeline.

But residents in the area have expressed feeling unsafe and frustrated with how the protest has swelled to scores of self-described “water protectors” who have joined the tribe’s fight, and Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer — North Dakota’s lone voice in the House — says the camp is illegal. He blames the agency for looking the other way.

On the surface this is reminiscent of the squalid “Occupy” camps we saw around the country a few years ago. One can only hope that the group meetings featuring secret languages and Up Twinkles aren’t also mixed with rape tents and people defecating on law enforcement vehicles. Still, I don’t want to lump all of the people involved in the protest into one group. Even if the pipeline construction process turns out to be safe and respectful of Native American lands and artifacts (as it appears to be), I’ll always give a wider latitude to the tribes, particularly when they are protesting lands disputed under the terms of old treaties. That seems to be the case here, so they should have full access to the courts as well as the media when litigating such disputes.

But these encampments are another question. It’s obviously not just the indigenous tribes as I mentioned above and they’re on land where they have no business being. Everyone was quick to demand that the protesters supporting the Bundy brothers be booted off of federal property last winter and I wrote at the time that they should have approached the protest legally. But now that it’s a liberal group protesting something related to fossil fuels, it’s the sound of crickets coming from the media. Congressman Cramer is correct… there’s a definite double standard in play.

“If that camp was full of people advocating for fossil fuels, they would have been removed by now,” Cramer said. “There is some discretionary enforcement going on.”

So when will the calls for the removal of these protesters begin at cable news roundtables? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting if I were you.

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