Police forces begin forcible evictions of Oceti Sakowin camp near Dakota Access pipeline

(Photo Credit: Still from live stream broadcast by Unicorn Riot)

In North Dakota, a militarized police force moved into the main Dakota Access pipeline protest camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation Thursday. FSRN’s Reaux Packard has more.

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Heavily armed police in riot gear, accompanied by military style vehicles, moved in to the Oceti Sakowin resistance camp mid-morning Thursday and began methodically clearing the area.

About 100 water protectors were still in the camp at the start of the eviction. The governor’s press office says police arrested at least two dozen people in the first half-hour of the operation.

Most water protectors voluntarily left the camp ahead of a Wednesday deadline. The Army Corp of Engineers issued an eviction notice earlier this month, citing a “high potential for flooding” in the low-lying area along the banks of the Cannonball River. But some chose to stand their ground and risk arrest on what they say is sovereign Native American territory under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

The independent media collective Unicorn Riot live-streamed the events.

“So right now they are mostly still concentrated on the north end of camp,” Unicorn Riot reported. “There’s some sheriffs and police and probably National Guard in camp, and there’s also significant forces still on 1806, like a large field force of people in riot gear, also most of the armored vehicles and humvees still parked on 1806 – a lot of those seem to be facing east into camp.”

Since August, the camp has been the central location for opposition to the four-state nearly $4 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Indigenous opponents and their allies say routing the pipeline under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation threatens their water supply and violates their sovereignty. At its peak, thousands of people occupied the camp, including a large contingent of U.S. military veterans who traveled from across the country to provide logistical support and defend the protesters.

Much of the camp emptied in December, after the Army Corps of Engineers, under then President Barack Obama, refused to grant an easement for the final leg of the pipeline, and called for a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement. As winter set in and conditions became increasingly harsh, all but a stalwart few left.

In his first week in office, President Trump issued an executive order expediting all approvals for the project. The Army Corps granted the easement soon thereafter, work restarted and protesters began to return.

As police carried out the eviction Thursday, observers stood on a nearby hill to document the actions. Oceti Sakowin is not the only protest encampment in the area, and it’s unclear if law enforcement plans to take action against the others, including the original Sacred Stone camp.

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