John Henderson, District Colonel for the Army Corps of Engineers, issued an eviction notice for the present location of the Oceti Sakowin camp to Chairman David Archambault II “to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement.”
It must be cleared by Dec. 5.
“I do not take this action lightly, but have decided that it is required,” Henderson wrote.
The camp could reestablish south of the Cannonball River at a new Free Speech zone established by the corps.
“In these areas, jurisdiction for police, fire and medical response is better defined making it a more sustainable area for visitors to endure the harsh North Dakota winter,” Henderson wrote.
Henderson also wrote about the “many Title 36 violations” presently in place at the camp, including unauthorized structures, fires and disposal of waste.
Those camped on the land are protesting the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which damaged sacred Indigenous lands, and its environmental impact on area water supplies.
“I’m not moving … I came to stop a pipeline. This is Oceti Sakowin territory,” Joye Braun wrote in the Facebook comments section after Dallas Goldtooth posted images of the letter.
More than 140 protesters and a journalist were arrested on Oct. 27 when highly militarized law enforcement cleaned out the Front Line camp, which protesters had built on DAPL land.
Police used 10 Humvees, armored vehicles, an LRAD, mace, less-than lethal rounds, batons and Tasers on protesters–including those in prayer circles and sweat lodges.
They were held by Morton County Sheriff’s Department in what have been described as large dog kennels next to a wall full of loose Taser pins. Barefoot protesters, including those who are diabetic, were not fed for about 8 hours and kept in a cold loading bay.
“Under the guise of making Oceti Sakowin camp more secure and protecting Water Protector safety, the Army Corps of Engineers … are putting everyone in the camp an arrest-able situation – increasing the probability of police raids, police violence, and death,” LaRae Meadows wrote on Facebook.
Meadows wrote that if the national guard is called in to clear the camp, it would “be a serious increase in the probability of the Water Protectors’ deaths.”
“This camp holds strategic value. Should the camp be moved onto the reservation, there would be another bridge in the way of the actions,” Meadows wrote. “This would make any chance of effective non-violent action effectively zero.”
Some are concerned that another mass arrest from staying on the land despite the corps’ wishes will lead to another intense clash with law enforcement and disregard for protesters’ welfare after their arrest.
“We remember what happened the day of the raid on Sacred Ground/Treaty Camp when that camp was called a trespass camp. We remember the Nov. 2 Turtle Island confrontation the day after we were labeled trespassers,” the Oceti Sakowin Camp wrote on its Facebook page.