Army Corps to close Dakota pipeline protesters’ camp

Army Corps to close Dakota pipeline protesters’ camp
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The Army Corps of Engineers plans to close off a swath of North Dakota land that for months has housed a campsite for anti-pipeline protesters. 

The Army Corps sent a letter to the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe Friday that said all lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed on Dec. 5, the Associated Press reported

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“To be clear, this means that no member of the general public, to include Dakota Access pipeline protesters, can be on these Corps lands,” the letter from Col. John Henderson reads. 

Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault told the AP that the land to be closed includes the Oceti Sakowin camp on Army Corps land where many protesters have set up. 

Another camp, Sacred Stone, sits on the opposite of the river and will not be affected by the Army Corps decision. 

Henderson said that the decision “is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions." 

He said that necessary services, including emergency and medical resources, can not be properly provided to protesters there.

“I do not take this action lightly, but have decided that it is required due to the concern for public safety and the fact that much of this land is leased to private persons for grazing and/or haying purposes as part of the Corps' land management practices,” he wrote. 

The letter goes on to say that a “free speech zone” will be set up on the south side of the Cannonball River for peaceful protests. 

“In these areas, jurisdiction for police, fire, and medical response is better defined making it a more sustainable area for visitors to endure the harsh North Dakota winter.” 

The Army Corps warned that anyone on the lands north of the river after Dec. 5 will be considered trespassing and could face prosecution. They added that anyone who stays there does so at their own risk and liability.

The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, joined by a flood of other tribe members and supporters, are fighting the final stretch of the 1,200-mile pipeline, that they say could threaten drinking water and cultural sites. Tensions between protesters and police have escalated in recent weeks, with law enforcement using water cannons and allegedly concussion grenades.