Yesterday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dropped a holiday weekend surprise on the contentious battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline. The federal agency told protesters they have until December 5 to move off Corps land they’ve been camping on.
Those camps have been a major bone of contention throughout this process. They were established by the #NoDAPL activists without permits from the Corps and despite grazing rights leased by private citizens, and law enforcement officials have argued that the camps are the basis for many of the unlawful and violent actions which have made headlines across the country.
Many, including this observer, have argued that allowing the protesters to occupy that land has exacerbated an already ugly situation. Delays in moving the protesters off the land have only allowed them to further entrench.
And as it turns out, the Corps actually did want to move the protesters off that land weeks ago, but the move was delayed by the White House according to Congressman Kevin Cramer.
“Colonel Henderson met with me in my Bismarck office on November 3rd and informed me of the decision,” Cramer told me today. “He told me the letters and news release had been sent to the White House and that they expected it to be announced early the following week, so sometime around November 7th.”
Ultimately the letter announcing the eviction was dated November 25, weeks after Henderson’s expected approval date, and in those ensuing weeks clashes between the protesters and law enforcement have grown more frequent and more violent.
It’s worth remembering that it was November 2 when President Obama said he wanted to let this tense situation “play out for several more weeks.”
I wonder how much more injury and mayhem will have resulted because of this decision once this is all over?
Meanwhile, Governor Jack Dalrymple has warned the federal government that it’s up to them to enforce this line in the sand they’ve drawn.
“Our state and local law enforcement agencies continue to do all they can to keep private property and public infrastructure free from unpermitted protest activities, and its past time that the federal government provides the law enforcement resources needed to support public safety and to enforce their own order to vacate,” Dalrymple said in a press release earlier today. “For more than 100 days now, the federal government has allowed protesters to illegally entrench themselves on Corps land and it is the federal government’s responsibility to lead the camp’s peaceful closure.”
But Cramer’s doubtful that the feds are going to step up. He says he told Henderson during their conversation that the November 7 date he was expecting for White House approval was too optimistic.
“I expressed my doubt it would be approved by the WH and/or DOJ that quickly if at all,” Cramer told me. “I’m still skeptical they will follow through with it.”
For their part the #NoDAPL activists, per this Associated Press report, are vowing to stay on the land and seem to be moving more people onto it.
And Chairman David Archambault, the titular leader of the protest movement, seems to agree with Cramer on the likelihood of the feds removing the protesters.
“Archambault said Saturday that he doesn’t believe the Corps will forcibly evict people from the camp,” the AP reports.
Unfortunately, we may not get a true federal commitment to stopping this lawlessness and violence until President-elect Trump takes office.