Pipeline opponents, law enforcement spar over protest supplies

BISMARCK - Vehicles delivering supplies to the Dakota Access Protest camp could be subject to a $1,000 fine for violating the governor's emergency evacuation order, a state official said Tuesday, Nov. 29.
The Oceti Sakowin camp is seen Monday in a snow storm during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Reuters
The Oceti Sakowin camp is seen Monday in a snow storm during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Reuters

BISMARCK – Vehicles delivering supplies to the Dakota Access Protest camp could be subject to a $1,000 fine for violating the governor’s emergency evacuation order, a state official said Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Cecily Fong, spokeswoman for the Department of Emergency Services, said law enforcement can stop vehicles in the area of the protest camp in southern Morton County and issue a $1,000 fine if the motorists are delivering supplies to the area under the evacuation order.

Fong said there will be “passive enforcement” of the rule, meaning officers won’t have a supply blockade or actively enforce the restriction but may stop vehicles if they encounter them during their patrols.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordered an emergency evacuation of the main protest camp north of the Cannonball River on Monday, citing harsh winter weather.

The $1,000 fine will not apply to land on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, but Fong said it could be enforced on Highway 6. That’s a route many motorists take due to road closures on Highway 1806 including the Backwater Bridge that was damaged during protests on Oct. 27.

No fines for violating the evacuation order had been issued as of early Tuesday afternoon, Fong said.

In a statement late Monday, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said if the governor is truly concerned about safety, the state should clear the blockade on Highway 1806.

State officials have said the bridge can’t reopen until it’s safe for the North Dakota Department of Transportation to do an inspection and make necessary repairs.

A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota objected Tuesday to the governor’s evacuation order and said the organization is considering litigation.

Jennifer Cook, policy director, said the while the governor says safety is the reason for the evacuation order, it’s contradictory to order the evacuation during a winter storm and to restrict people’s access to food and supplies.

“It’s a broad order and the enforcement of it is a major concern for the safety and the well-being of the people in the area,” Cook said.

She added she has concerns about people’s rights being violated if motorists are cited for delivering supplies to the camp.

“There are a lot of constitutional concerns,” Cook said.

The governor’s order states that state emergency services will not be made available to the protest camp. The order applies to the protest camp that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not permitted and announced will be closed to the public on Dec. 5.

However, neither the state nor the Corps has said that protesters would be forcibly removed from the camp. Representatives of the protest camps have said they plan to stay.

About 140 North Dakota National Guard members have been assisting law enforcement in the protest area. That number is expected to increase significantly in the coming days, and Maj. Amber Balken, a Guard spokeswoman, said the mission - providing support for law enforcement - won’t change.

It wasn’t immediately known how many more Guard members will join the support effort.

In his statement late Monday, Archambault called on the Corps to affirm their previous statement regarding not forcibly removing people from the camp.

“The state has since clarified that they won't be deploying law enforcement to forcibly remove campers, but we are wary that this executive order will enable further human rights violations,” Archambault said.

The governor’s order does not change how the North Dakota Department of Transportation will plow state highways, said agency spokeswoman Jamie Olson.

The department is plowing Highway 1806, but is working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an escort to plow the highway north of the Cannonball intersection near the protest camp, she said.

Morton County is expected to be in a winter storm warning through Wednesday evening, with snowfall accumulations of 10 to 18 inches possible in central North Dakota. The storm prompted officials to close Interstate 94 from Dickinson to Mandan on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s hard to keep up on a day like today,” Olson added.

LaDonna Bravebull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp, where pipeline opponents began camping last April, said in a news conference late Monday that she was told the state would not plow roads to the protest camps.

Allard also questioned the governor’s rationale of issuing the emergency evacuation order during the winter storm.

“Our homelands have always been here, we have always been here, we know how to live in winter,” Allard said. “We thank you for worrying about us, but we have been here always and you haven’t worried about us last year and the year before.”

In addition, protest organizers question whether the governor has the authority to order the evacuation.

“This is treaty territory and no one has jurisdiction here except for our people,” said Phyllis Young, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.