Water protectors who fought against the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline and remained at the Standing Rock encampment in North Dakota past the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Wednesday deadline for evacuation faced arrest Thursday as officers moved in to remove those who were still at the site.
USA Today reports that the arrests came just hours after remnants of the camp were set on fire as part of a departure ceremony.
Many of the water protectors had been on the ground for six months, blocking construction of the pipeline on federal land, and while some left ahead of Wednesday’s 2 p.m. CT deadline, others said that they would defy the deadline in continued protest.
From USA Today:
About 150 people marched arm-in-arm out of the camp, singing and playing drums as they walked down a highway. One man carried an American flag hung upside-down.
Authorities sent buses to take protesters to the North Dakota capital of Bismarck, where they were offered fresh clothing, bus fare home and food and hotel vouchers.
The encampment is on federal land in North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the pipeline route that the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners is constructing. When complete, the pipeline will carry oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set the Wednesday deadline, citing the threat of spring flooding.
USA Today also reports that Phyllis Young, one of the camp leaders, told the Associated Press that some of the remaining protesters were focused on moving off federal land and away from the flood plain into other camps.
“The camps will continue,” Young said. “Freedom is in our DNA, and we have no choice but to continue the struggle.”
According to USA Today, there are new camps popping up on private land, including one the Cheyenne River Sioux set up about a mile from the main camp.
“A lot of our people want to be here and pray for our future,” tribal Chairman Harold Frazier said.
Meanwhile, a group of about 20 other people, including 50-year-old Charles Whalen of Mille Lacs, Minn., vowed not to leave on their own and were willing to be arrested to prove their point.
“Passive resistance,” Whalen said. “We are not going to do anything negative. It’s about prayer.”
According to USA Today, Levi Bachmeier, policy adviser for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, told AP that authorities would rather not apprehend people, but they would enforce the deadline.
Bachmeier said that the state “remains committed to ensuring the safety of everyone here. The last thing we want is to see anyone harmed.”
Water protectors made a massive effort to clean up the camp before leaving, and they got some assistance from the Army Corps in removing debris, but because vehicles and pedestrians were having trouble getting through the muck created by recent rain and snow, those cleanup efforts were suspended by camp officials who did not want heavy equipment making the conditions worse.
Read more at USA Today.