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ND Governor Issues Emergency Order to Evacuate Standing Rock Camps

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Published on: November 30, 2016

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has issued a mandatory emergency evacuation order for all encampments north of the Cannonball River. This would include all those people who are actively protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The order, though not necessarily forceful, is obligatory and would advance an eviction that was set by the Army Corps of Engineers concerning Standing Rock Camps for December 5, 2016.

“These persons are ordered to leave the evacuation area immediately, and are further ordered not to return to the evacuation area,” the order states.

“Any action or inaction taken by any party which encourages persons to enter, reenter, or remain in the evacuation area will be subject to penalties as defined in law.

“I direct state agencies, emergency service officials, and nongovernmental organizations to reduce threats to public safety by not guaranteeing the provision of emergency and other governmental and nongovernmental services in the evacuation area, unless otherwise approved on a case by case basis by the Morton County Sheriff or Superintendent of the Highway Patrol.  The general public is hereby notified that emergency services probably will not be available under current winter conditions.”

The US Army Corps of Engineers put forth a strategy to remove protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In a November 27, 2016 update, the Army Corps of Engineers wrote:

On November 25, 2016, after coordination with Tribal leaders involved in the ongoing protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline on which some of the land is currently leased to a local rancher for grazing, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified Tribal leaders throughout the Missouri River basin by letter that areas of Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River will be closed to the public effective December 5, 2016. The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal. But those who choose to stay do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas. Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state, or local laws. This will reduce the risk of harm to people in the encampments caused by the harsh North Dakota winter conditions

This transition is also necessary to protect the general public from the dangerous confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement officials which have occurred near this area.  “Unfortunately, it is apparent that more dangerous groups have joined this protest and are provoking conflict in spite of the public pleas from Tribal leaders.  We are working to transition those engaged in peaceful protest from this area and enable law enforcement authorities to address violent or illegal acts as appropriate to protect public safety,” said Omaha District Commander, Col. John Henderson.

The Army Corps of Engineers has never been able to legally issue a permit for the Oceti Sakowin camp north of the Cannonball River due to the pre-existing grazing lease to a local rancher. However, the Corps has established an area on land south of the Cannonball River for anyone wishing to peaceably protest the Dakota Access pipeline project. In this area, jurisdiction for police, fire, and medical response is better-defined since it is located inside of the Reservation boundary making it a more sustainable area for visitors to endure the harsh North Dakota winter.

Now, this gets to an issue that I believe is similar to what took place at Bundy Ranch in 2014 and late last year into this year in Oregon, and that is by what constitutional authority does the central government have to remove people from the land here, especially with a standing army? If anyone was to deal with that, it would be the constitutional militia. If they are peacefully protesting, as the engineers claim, then they are responsible for their own lives and the land should not be under control of the central government per the Constitution.

“I am very concerned for the safety and well-being of all citizens at these encampments on Corps-managed federal land, and we want to make sure people are in a safe place for the winter,” said Henderson.  “We fully support the rights of all Americans to exercise free speech and peacefully assemble, and we ask that they do it in a way that does not also endanger themselves or others, or infringe on others’ rights.”

Additionally, the Corps seeks to establish a “free speech zone” south of the Cannonball River. According to the Constitution’s First Amendment, there is no such thing and attempts by anyone in the central government to regulate free speech in such a manner is in open violation of the Constitution and the rights of the people that Constitution was written to protect.

Claire Bernish of The Free Thought Project points to some other issues of authority.

“There are several open questions regarding jurisdiction in this complicated matter of a state governor issuing an order for lands managed by the Army Corps of Engineers — additionally on the same lands Indigenous peoples consider unceded pursuant to treaties signed in 1851 and 1868,” she wrote.

Bernish points out that there is potential danger for those who are peacefully protesting the DAP. She writes:

Controversy buzzed through social and other media upon the issuance of a letter to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chair Harold Frazier that water protectors camped north of the Cannonball River would be evicted as of December 5.

However, because that letter — sent Friday by Army Corps Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson — did not provide any details concerning the logistics of that eviction, water protectors worried about the potential use of force.

Those concerns were putatively alleviated when Henderson vaguely clarified the notice of eviction with a press statement claiming the Army Corps “has no plans for forcible removal” of water protectors in the Oceti Sakowin and other camps in the specified area.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II says that the orders are mere intimidation tactics.

“Today, Gov. Dalrymple issued an executive order calling for mandatory evacuation of all campers located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) lands, also known as the Oceti Sakowin camp. This state executive order is a menacing action meant to cause fear, and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority. The USACE has clearly stated that it does not intend to forcibly remove campers from federal property. The Governor cites harsh weather conditions and the threat to human life. As I have stated previously, the most dangerous thing we can do is force well-situated campers from their shelters and into the cold. If the true concern is for public safety than the Governor should clear the blockade and the county law enforcement should cease all use of flash grenades, high-pressure water cannons in freezing temperatures, dog kennels for temporary human jails, and any harmful weaponry against human beings. This is a clear stretch of state emergency management authority and a further attempt to abuse and humiliate the water protectors. 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.”

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