The mandatory evacuation may be more about liability than it is about forcible removal.
Confusing legal issues have been raised recently that affect the water protectors in North Dakota, and more matters are coming into play that could further complicate their fight for clean water.
For starters, an order by the Army Corps of Engineers that was later dismissed stated that protesters would be forcibly removed or prosecuted for trespassing if they remained at the camps after December 5th.
Thankfully, this order didn’t go through, but another daunting one was pushed forward and signed by North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple late on Monday that is making waves. He released an order that called for a mandatory evacuation of all protesters blocking the development of the pipeline because of “severe winter weather storm conditions.”
Despite it being deemed “mandatory,” no forcible removals are planned and no deadline has been imposed. This may be because neither the state nor the Army Corps of Engineers wants to assume responsibility for removing the protectors, but this benefits the people that plan on continuing the protest throughout the winter season.
The reason for the order is to limit liability, since the harsh conditions could seriously harm some of the protesters who live in cars or tents instead of “proper dwellings suitable for winter habitation.” By formally demanding a complete evacuation, the state is not held responsible for the deteriorating health of protesters caused by weather.
Many speculate that this order will have little to no immediate effect on the water protectors, because federal officials would need to get involved if there were going to be any sort of removal. State and local officials are unable to forcibly remove people, except for when they are arresting them.
Unfortunately, North Dakota’s winters are notoriously brutal and will likely convince protesters to leave the camps voluntarily. Snow plows that took to the streets to clean up Monday’s big winter storm did not go within a mile of the protest camps because they don’t feel safe or welcome there. This could prove to be a significant problem for protesters as their ability to access their own camps may dwindle.
Since the investors behind the Dakota Access Pipeline lose more money as the protest goes on, drastic measures are being employed to strongly encourage protesters to abandon their efforts. However, a steadfast dedication to this cause that native people and other environmentalists are so passionate about has kept the effort going thus far. Hopefully, this passion will be enough to propel the protest through the hardest months of the year in North Dakota.
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