The federal government has put North Dakota law enforcement in a bad situation.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – perhaps under pressure from the Obama administration? – continues to tolerate illegal and unpermitted encampments of #NoDAPL protesters on Corps property. The Corps is even hanging out to dry a rancher who owns grazing rights on some of that property, noting that he’s responsible for the condition of the land despite protesters digging fire pits and trenches and building structures on the land in preparation for an occupation they say will last through the harsh North Dakota winter.
Yesterday I interviewed an activist from Nebraska who left the #NoDAPL protest camps citing problems with safety and illegal activity, and he noted that much of the unlawful and violent activity coming from the protest movement originates with these trespass camps.
Which is the point Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen made in an October 3 letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, and Lieutenant General Todd Semonite of the Corps. An excerpt:
Sheriff Danzeisen goes on to say the Corps continues to “harbor” and “implicitly condone” lawlessness, making law enforcement’s job to keep the peace “insurmountable.”
And he’s exactly right.
The Corps has said that they’re trying to balance the 1st amendment rights of the protesters against their illegal camping on federal property. But the 1st amendment doesn’t protect violence and trespass and vandalism.
Also, can we stop saying that the protesters are mostly peaceful? While it certainly seems to be true that only a faction of the overall protest movement is involved in the unlawful activity, it’s also true that the leaders in the Standing Rock Tribe aren’t going out of their way to condemn the violence and expel those responsible from the camps.
Heck, it would be refreshing to hear someone like Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault even admit that there have been indefensible acts of violence perpetrated by some in his movement.
Here’s the full letter: