At the Standing Rock site in North Dakota, police began arresting protesters Wednesday who remained there to fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to The New York Times. Ten people were arrested, and 25-50 protesters may remain at the site. Feb. 22 was the deadline for people at the site to evacuate, as construction on the pipeline is slated to resume thanks to President Donald Trump’s executive order that the Army Corps of Engineers end its environmental impact study and go ahead with the pipeline.
Protesters had to evacuate due to flooding threats from melting snow. “The Army Corps and [North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R)] said health and safety risks necessitated shutting down the camp,” the Huffington Post reports. Funny that they care about this risk to the environment and the people who live in the area, but are actively adding a much greater risk in the form of the pipeline.
Some of the protesters dismantled their tents and home sites by setting them on fire. “It’s saying: ‘If you are going to make us leave our home, you cannot take our space. We’ll burn it to the ground and let the earth take it back before you take it from us,’” Nick Cowan told the Times.
Many protesters have been leaving the site in recent months, especially after former President Barack Obama called for a halt to construction proceedings in early December. Even though Trump reversed the decision, harsh winter weather caused some protesters to head home, according to the Times.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members have also begun to pursue legal recourse, challenging the pipeline’s backers for what they claim is a deliberate ignoring of tribal sovereignty and a lack of consideration for the environmental destruction that could result from the pipeline, as well as a continued reliance on detrimental fossil fuels.
According to a court filing by Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the pipeline’s development, “‘the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017 and April 1, 2017.’”
While the end goal of a complete stoppage of the pipeline doesn’t seem feasible anymore, the fact that these protests garnered national attention might be considered a victory. Hopefully from this, U.S. citizens as well as the government have experienced a fundamental change in the way we think about indigenous rights and environmental justice.