The major bone of contention over the past several weeks between North Dakota law enforcement officers and #NoDAPL protesters has been the roadblock at the Backwater Bridge.
Law enforcement has argued that the roadblock is necessary because a) protesters damaged it by setting it on fire during a riot back in October and b) the protesters use the bridge as an avenue for what they call “direct actions,” which are basically attacks on pipeline construction and attempts to occupy private land to the north.
Protesters say the roadblock delays travelers to the reservation, as well as complicates any response to emergencies at the camp/reservation.
Today in a press conference (full video below) law enforcement said they would very much like to clear the roadblock. “[Y]esterday, we had a very positive conversation on the bridge,” Cass County Sheriff Laney said during the press conference. “The question was asked if we would consider pulling back from the Backwater Bridge, and the answer is yes! We want this to de-escalate.”
Laney said that if protesters met these conditions law enforcement would withdraw from the bridge no later than December 4 (I’m quoting these from the release:
- The protestors agree to stay in the identified protest area which is the main camp and south of the Backwater Bridge, not on it.
- The protestors agree to stay off the bridge unless a prearranged meeting with Morton County is approved.
- The protestors do not, at any time, attempt to remove any barriers or wires from the bridge. It is not their property and it remains there for safety reasons.
- Protestors do not, at any time, move north of the bridge by walking, riding or flying a drone. This includes trying to flank Law Enforcement on any side.
“Adhering to these requests will show good faith by the protest groups, and will reinforce their message of peaceful and prayerful gatherings,” the release states. “Violation of these requests will show that protestors have chosen to be aggressors by violating the law, and it will result in their arrest.”
Will the #NoDAPL activists abide by these terms? And haven’t these kind of been the terms for law enforcement to de-escalate the whole time? What necessitates an army of cops down in southern Morton County right now is a mob of protesters who show little regard for law and order.
If they were a group of people who were peaceful and law-abiding the law enforcement presence would be minimal.
I think many of the #NoDAPL activists would like to abide by these terms, to clear the bridge and find some common ground with the cops.
The problem is there has been a very violent, very extreme faction of this protest movement almost from the beginning which has consistently refused to cooperate. Will they abide by these terms?
Can the protest organizers, up to and including Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault, make them cooperate? Or at the very least expel those bent on mayhem?
I’m not so sure. To date, the protest organizers have shown an unwillingness and/or an inability to rein in the more extreme elements.
Here’s the full video of the press conference:
Here’s the release:
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