“We have an escalating situation where safety is a concern for everybody.”
Protesters opposed to an oil pipeline planned to run beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota must vacate an area where thousands of demonstrators have been camped by Dec. 5 or face prosecution, according to U.S. authorities.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the federal land where the main camp protesting the Dakota Access pipeline is located, said it would close public access to the area north of the Cannonball River, including to protesters, partly to protect the general public from violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement that have occurred in the area.
Protest organizers said about 5,000 people are camped at the site. There are smaller camps on land not subject to the planned restrictions, including an area south of the Cannonball River where the Corps said it was establishing a free-speech zone.
On Saturday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said he suppported the decision and the federal government must take the lead in any action to close encampments on Corps land.
Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault said he received notice on Friday about the decision in a letter from Colonel John Henderson, an Army Corps district commander.
“If they want public safety, the best thing the federal government could do is deny the easement” for the pipeline, Archambault told a news conference on Saturday. “We have an escalating situation where safety is a concern for everybody.”