There’s been a change in the standoff over the previously stalled Dakota Access Pipeline but you wouldn’t be able to tell it from the actions of the protesters. This week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for a permanent injunction on additional construction on tribal lands. That’s not going to slow down the activities of the environmentalists camped out in the area to protest the project, however. They immediately released a statement indicating that the fight would go on and they won’t be leaving their illegal compound established on federal land. All of this was taking place well after earlier instances where armed protesters turned violent, breaking down fences and initiating confrontations where three pipeline security officers were injured.
By this point you may be wondering why federal authorities haven’t stepped in to bring the situation under control. After all, when a different group of protesters who were similarly armed took over some federal land in Oregon last year in support of the Bundys, the government began arresting people in a matter of weeks. What could be the difference? Our friend Dustin Siggins helpfully pointed me to an article by Rachel Alexander, writing at Stream last week, examined the question and quickly identified the disconnect.
In stark contrast to the small, low-key rancher protest, hundreds of members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and armed environmental activists have been camping out for 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…
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.
Unlike the situation in Oregon where nothing was being destroyed (aside from some littering at one federal building) there is vandalism and physical violence taking place in North Dakota. Not only are the local law enforcement officials asking the feds to help break up the illegal camp and restore order but North Dakota’s congressman, Kevin Cramer, has been asking Washington to step in and complaining that the federal agents are looking the other way.
These aren’t decisions that are made at a local level. The direction taken by federal law enforcement comes down from the top, particularly when the United States Attorney General has been directly contacted by law enforcement on the ground asking for assistance. Still, this is being treated as a free speech issue rather than a clear violation of the law which has already boiled over into violence on more than one occasion.
If these had been Tea Party activists protesting in support of fossil fuel development they would already be in jail. Heck, during the Oregon protests one of the ranchers, Lavoy Finicum, was actually shot and killed as a result of it. But because the situation in North Dakota is a politically popular subject on the Left, the Justice Department is refusing to step in and the encampment on federal lands remains in place. This isn’t a question of whether or not either protest has more or less merit than the other, but rather a double standard being applied by an extremely politicized Justice Department.
The original version of this article listed Dustin Siggins as the author of the linked piece at Stream. The article was written by Rachel Alexander. This error has been corrected with our apologies.