While most Americans are distracted by America’s widening political chasm, a conlflict has been building out west. And the intensifying month-long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is now threatening to take center stage.
The project is worth 3.7 billion, and many have been outspoken on the negative effects it will have if completed. Now the standoff between the protesters and police has intensified as protestors have burned a bridge with flaming tires and debris.
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It is important to note that the protesters are not armed. Still, the National Guard has stepped in strictly as a “supporting role.” Reports claim over 100 militarized officers have assembled and are pushing the protestors south.
Police wanted to set the precedent by “take[ing] necessary steps to move trespassers from private property.” Morton County Sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier, said, “Protesters escalated unlawful behavior this weekend by setting up illegal roadblocks, trespassing onto private property and establishing an encampment–(actions that) forced law enforcement to respond at this time.”
The protestors had come to stay. Many had tents, tepees and other structures on the private property. “I can’t stress it enough, this is a public safety issue,” Kirchmeier said. “We cannot have protesters blocking county roads, blocking state highways, or trespassing on private property.”
The reasoning behind the long-brewing conflict is that the belief that the 1,172-mile pipeline will threaten the environment and destroy Native American burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts.
The pipeline was approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers and granted final permits in July.
Some protestors have simply participated in a sit-in while others have been vandalizing construction equipment and now starting fires.
More than 127 protesters have been arrested. Some are quite high profile, including “Divergent” actress Shailene Woodley. Presidential candidate Jill Stein was charged with a misdemeanor after a video showed her spray-painting a bulldozer.
Many argue that the project will be an economic boon. The pipeline would also significantly decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil according to the developer, Energy Transfer Partners.
The pipeline would also help free up railways to transport “crops and other commodities currently constrained by crude oil cargos.”
The likelihood of the protest changing anyone’s mind is small. In fact, Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong informed the media that the protestors have been removed, and there are dwindling numbers left. As little as 100 protestors are still there.