North Dakota offers protesters free rides home, food, hotels as evacuation deadline looms

Short of packing the protesters’ bags, North Dakota is doing everything it can to convince the remaining Dakota Access oil pipeline activists to meet Wednesday’s evacuation deadline with free bus tickets, food, hotel rooms and taxi rides.

The state, which has already spent $33 million on law enforcement and other costs associated with the 6-month-old protest, has established a travel-assistance center, a free service to “provide protesters with support as they prepare for their return home.”

“The transportation assistance center will offer personal kits, water and snacks, health/wellness assessments, bus far for a return trip home, a food voucher, hotel lodging for one night, and a taxi voucher to the bus terminal,” the North Dakota Joint Information Center said in a Tuesday statement.

“Transportation will be provided from the protest camps to the assistance center,” the center said.

State officials are urging the 200 to 300 activists left at the soggy, trash-strewn encampment on federal land to take advantage of the offer by 2 p.m. Central, the deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evacuate the floodplain.

Some pipeline foes have called for a “last stand” even though Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II has repeatedly asked them to leave, citing the flood danger from the snowmelt as well as the environmental damage from debris and garbage left behind by months of protests.

Those remaining at the Oceti Sakowin camp set fires Wednesday as part of a ceremony to burn their tents, teepees and other shelters ahead of the camp’s evacuation, The Associated Press reported.

Light snow fell as some protesters packed their belongings and engaged in prayer in preparation to leave as law enforcement watched from a distance, according to video posted Wednesday on the Sacred Stone Camp page on Facebook.

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