On Wednesday afternoon, police in North Dakota forced out the final Water Protectors who had been stationed on the main campsite of the Dakota Access pipeline protest for half a year in an attempt to block the project from moving forward.
Before their departure from the campsite, known as Oceti Sakowin, many Water Protectors ceremoniously burned their camp dwellings. Though the few hundred protesters were forced off of the federal land where Oceti Sakowin was stationed, many have vowed to move to the other camps as organizers promise that new camps are popping up on private lands, and that the protest will continue.
The evacuation of protesters was completed with relatively few arrests or contentious encounters between law enforcement and the Water Protectors, a major concern given the brutal police tactics carried out against protesters earlier in the movement. In November, a restraining order was filed on behalf of the Water Protectors after more than 300 people were injured in one week when police deployed the use of rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas without warning.
For half a year, thousands of Water Protectors representing over 280 Tribes have been protesting the construction of the 1,200 mile, $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline that is now slated to carry nearly 470,000 barrels of oil a day under the Missouri River, half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The Tribe upholds that it was not properly consulted on the project, which will pass through their treaty lands, sacred sites and burial grounds. A spill could contaminate the Tribe’s water supply, a reason the pipeline’s path was moved from the capital of Bismarck to its current route.
The evacuation comes a month after President Trump signed an executive action to advance the constructions of both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, disregarding the months-long demand of Water Protectors to respect tribal sovereignty and investigate the environmental impact of such pipelines. According to his financial disclosure forms, Trump owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company building the Dakota Access pipeline, through at least mid-2016, and the company’s chief executive, Kelcy Warren, donated $100,000 to his campaign.
In addition to his business interests, Trump and his administration have been very clear about their hostility towards environmental protections and regulations. Last week, the Senate confirmed his pick for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt, an avid climate change denier, fossil fuel supporter and collaborator with oil and gas companies.
Just a day before his confirmation vote, an Oklahoma County district judge ordered Pruitt, the former Attorney General of Oklahoma, to turn over public official documents to a watchdog group after he failed to comply with their 2015 request to release correspondence between himself and Koch Industries, as well as other mining and drilling corporations.
Media Resources: Time 2/22/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 12/1/16, 1/25/17, 2/17/1