On December 4, the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota was exploding with fireworks and celebratory cheers. The US Army Corps of Engineers had just announced it would halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline after months of protests. After Trump’s recent presidential win and the anti-Trump protests that quickly followed, the #NoDAPL win was a much-needed reminder to many that protesting can bring about real change. Fast forward a few months, and the scene at Standing Rock tells a very different story.
The fight over the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline is being fought fiercely and peacefully by Native American tribes in South and North Dakota for a few reasons. The first is over concern that the process used to extract oil in the area comes with a high risk of contaminating the area’s water supply. The second has to do with the fact that the pipeline threatens sacred native lands to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Tribal leaders also argue that the government’s initial decision to allow the pipeline to run within a half-mile of the local reservation was done without consulting tribal leaders and is in violation of a treaty signed in 1851.
After encouragement from President Trump to restart construction on the controversial project, protesters found themselves facing an uphill battle once again. Today, it seems as though that battle might finally come to an end for the Native Americans and protest groups opposing the pipeline’s construction.
This afternoon, two significant events are set to take place in North Dakota: a final prayer circle and an evacuation raid. These two are both set to take place at the same time. As part of their goodbye to the campground, remaining protesters are burning wooden structures as part of a farewell ceremony. They’re also expected to host a prayer circle.
According to word on Twitter, an evacuation raid is scheduled for 2pm PST today (February 22). Considering the police aggression that has happened at the site in the past, protesters have concerns about police using live rounds (AKA rubber bullets) on the crowd. Additionally, police have received reports that there are weapons stashed at the camp. So while this confrontation could end peacefully, there is concern that the emotions at play — and what the pipeline would mean for Native Americans and their rights — might result in a violent battle between the two forces. In anticipation of potential violence, camp security has agreed to set off flares as a signal that “excessive force is happening and women and children should leave camp.”
However, what kind of access the press will have to report on this historic event remains unclear. They’ve received orders to report only from a “safety zone” hundreds of feet away, which — if abided — would make it hard to accurately report on exactly what is going down on the ground. Should they leave the designated area, members of the press could be subject to arrest.
We’ll keep you updated on any major additions to this story.
(Photos via Getty)