Dakota pipeline protesters torch tents before deadline to leave

Police and protesters clash on the Backwater Bridge, north of a protest camp in Morton County, N.D., on November 20. Photo courtesy of Morton County Sheriff's Department

Feb. 22 (UPI) — Dakota Access pipeline protesters set fire to their tents and teepees Wednesday before the imposed deadline to leave the site in Morton County, N.D.

About 300 remaining opponents of the pipeline burned the tents ahead of the 2 p.m. deadline. Camp leaders were informed they were subject to arrest if they didn’t depart by then.

Last week, Gov. Doug Burgum signed an emergency order for evacuation of the property, citing environmental damage and a flood threat. The order noted increasing temperatures have accelerated the snow melt in the area, which is on a flood plain.

The numbers of protesters have declined from about 10,000. Some tepees were stripped to the poles and trash was piled high in some areas.

“I’m not going anywhere. I carry a knife with me all the time. But I am handing that over so that I have no weapons on me. I will stay and pray, even if they come to remove us,” Valerie Armstrong, 36, of Sherman, Texas, said to CNN on Tuesday.

“I have no fear. … I am living in the purest form I can,” Eric Wallace-Senft told KFYR-TV in Bismarck. “If they are people who want to harm me, then that’s on them.”

Officials are offering buses to transport protesters to a transition center in Bismark for medical evaluations, clean clothes, a hotel stay and bus fare home.

“Our goal is that everyone who wants to vacate the camps prior to 2 p.m. tomorrow has every resource available to do so,” Levi Bachmeier, a policy adviser to Burgum, said Tuesday to CNN.

Since last August, the Sioux tribes and environmental activists have been protesting plans by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to build a 1,170-mile pipeline to transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day. The $3.7 billion project, which will connect the oil producing areas in North Dakota to a crude oil terminal in Patoka, Ill., is 70 percent complete.

Opponent argue an oil spill would contaminate the reservation’s water supply and destroy the burial sites of their ancestors.

On Dec. 4, the Obama Administration said it would not grant the energy company an easement to continue the construction. But on his second day in office, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum approving the pipeline.

On Feb. 7, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, approved the easement.


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