By Glynn Wilson –
A line has been drawn in the snow and December 5 is the do or die day for the historic Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline “black snake,” as the water protectors call it.
Sources who have been involved in the discussions in and out of the camp in recent says there is a split between elder tribal leaders, who are urging a tactical retreat for the winter back to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation south of the Cannonball River, and younger, braves and activists are urging a tough “stand their ground” approach. They want to remain in the large Oceti Sakowin encampment at the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers just down the road from the front line camp along Highway 1806, where protestors have blocked work on the pipeline since spring.
The governor of North Dakota has drawn a line in the snow and issued an emergency evacuation order for the inhabitants of the camp north of Cannon Ball in spite of another order issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday saying the federal agency has no plans for “forcible removal” of the water protectors.
The Corps of Engineers has “no plans for forcible removal” of protesters who have been camping in Oceti Sakowin camp at the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers near where the Dakota Access Pipeline is under construction, according to the agency’s statement, which has still not been posted on the Corps website.
The Corps notified tribal leaders Friday that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to public access Dec. 5 for “safety concerns” and said those who choose to stay “do so at their own risk” and “anyone on the property north of the Cannonball River after that date will be trespassing and subject to prosecution.”
With snow falling and accumulating in North Dakota on Monday, Governor Jack Dalrymple used the Corps statement and the weather to draw the line in the snow and demand that the protesters disperse.
“Morton County is currently experiencing severe winter weather storm conditions, and it is anticipated harsh winter conditions will continue until next spring … winter conditions have the potential to endanger human life, especially when they are exposed to these conditions without proper shelter, dwellings, or sanitation for prolonged periods of time,” the order says.
“Large populations have chosen to stay in areas of Morton County managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers south of the Cantapeta Creek and the Cannonball River (The areas include the confluence with Cantapeta Creek east, east of North Dakota Highway 1806, north of the Cannonball River, and west of the Missouri River) in tents, vehicles, temporary and semi-permanent structures which have not been inspected and approved by Morton County as proper dwellings suitable for winter habitation,” the statement continues. These areas “are not zoned for dwellings suitable for living in winter conditions, and also do not possess proper permanent sanitation infrastructure to sustain a living environment consistent with proper public health.”
Since the Corps has ordered the the area they manage to be vacated due to public safety concerns “related to the inability to effectively provide emergency, medical, fire response services, and law enforcement services … it is the responsibility of the state to assist citizens and visitors to North Dakota in addressing the emergencies, disasters, and other hardships that may face the state, its citizens and visitors, to include issuance of orders in the best interest of public safety,” the statement continues.
“Therefore (I) order a mandatory evacuation of all persons located in areas under the proprietary jurisdiction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers located in Morton County, and defined as a prohibited area,” the governor said, with an attached in Exhibit A attached to the order.
“These persons are ordered to leave the evacuation area immediately, and are further ordered not to return to the evacuation area,” the governor said. “All persons in the evacuation area shall take all their possessions with them upon their evacuation. 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.”
He said he was directing 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 governor’s order said. “Any person who chooses to enter, reenter, or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk, and assumes any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupation of the evacuation area.”
The governor claimed authority to do this under Article V, Section 1 of the North Dakota Constitution and his authority to issue executive orders to minimize or avert the effects of a disaster or emergency pursuant to Chapter 37-17.1 of the North Dakota Century Code. And he cites Section 37-17.1-05(6)(e), N.D.C.C. where he has the authority to direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state if the governor deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster or emergency mitigation, response, or recovery.
“A coordinated and effective effort of all state departments is required to minimize the impact of disasters and emergencies in this state,” he said.
We will see what happens Dec. 5. As I reported the other day, a historic confrontation in the war for human rights and social justice on the magnitude of Bloody Sunday in Selma is looming at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in North Dakota on Dec. 5, and the whole world really is watching this time, live on Facebook.
More than 700 tribes and millions of people will be watching to see how local sheriff’s deputies and private security forces handle the job of trying to enforce a federal evacuation order for all land occupied by protestors north of the Cannonball River, west of the Missouri, issued by the Corps of Engineers on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Kirchmeier, Morton County Sued for Excessive Force in Protests
Meanwhile, a National Lawyers Guild group has filed a class action lawsuit against Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Morton County and other law enforcement agencies for bringing excessive force against Dakota Access Pipeline protesters earlier this month, according to an article just out from the Bismark Tribune.
The Water Protector Legal Collective filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck seeking an immediate injunction to prevent Kirchmeier and other agencies from using impact munitions, such as rubber bullets, lead-filled beanbags, water and sound cannons, directed energy devices, water hoses, explosive tear gas grenades and other chemical agents against the protesters.
The group wants the injunction while the court decides whether to issue a temporary restraining order against police, arguing the police actions and munitions fall outside legal parameters.
The complaint lists nine individuals who were injured Nov. 20, when protesters and police clashed at the barricaded Backwater Bridge near the protest encampment and says they sustained facial burns, broken bones, genital injury, lost consciousness, wounds and that one may be blind from impact to her eye.
“The civil rights violations that night were deliberate and punitive,” said attorney Rachel Lederman. “Illegal use of force against the water protectors has been escalating. It is only a matter of luck that no one has been killed. This must stop.”
Kirchmeier said he hadn’t been served notice of the lawsuit, but the impact munitions described in the lawsuit are used for the protection of the officers.
“When we’re put in the position of protected areas being overrun by numbers of people, these are lawful tools to quell the advancement,” the sheriff said. “These are standing orders. When decisions have to be made by the field commander, he has the necessary authority to make the call.”
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.