Standing Rock Burning
Update on the camp the morning after evacuation, night of arrests
On the morning of Thursday, February 23, 2017, Standing Rock was burning.
Just one day after the Wednesday deadline to evacuate the camp, only an estimated 25 to 50 protesters remained, reluctant to abandon the last vestiges of the movement to oppose construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Those that stayed set fire to tents and other monuments around the encampment. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said that cleanup crews were scheduled to enter the once-bustling camp at 9:00 A.M. local time.
“We’re very firm that the camp is now closed,” he said during a press conference Wednesday night.
But Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that led the resistance against the pipeline’s construction on the grounds that it bisected sacred lands and threatened the local water supply, said that shutting down the camp would not dampen protesters’ spirits.
“You can’t arrest a movement,” he told Reuters. ”You can’t arrest a spiritual revolution.”
Wednesday night arrests
Police in riot gear detained ten protesters on the road near the camp’s main entrance on Wednesday night.
During the press conference, Burgum said that those who were arrested would be charged with “Obstruction of a Government Function,” a class B misdemeanor.
As sleet buffeted the camp, the remaining protesters set off fireworks Wednesday evening. Burgum said that in addition to the arrests, two people—a 7-year-old-boy and a 17-year-old-girl—were transported to a hospital in Bismarck for burns after two of the blasts.
A chapter comes to a close
Burgum signed the emergency order to evacuate the camp last week, citing safety concerns as accelerated snowmelt threatened to cause “rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams.”
Dubbed the Oceti Sakowin camp, the site played host to an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 protesters intent on halting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of the snaking oil pipeline during its time in operation.
Since President Donald Trump signed executive actions to set the project back in motion in January, the pipeline is expected to be complete and transporting oil even sooner than expected, and is now slated to be finished “anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017, and April 1, 2017,” according to Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company building the pipeline.
For 17-year-old Alethea Phillips, a protester from Michigan who had been in the camp for three months, the bleakest hour of the resistance was the most critical test the demonstrators would face.
“I feel as though now is the time to stand our ground,” she told Reuters.
—News.Mic, February 23, 2017