Dakota oil pipeline protesters are refusing to vacate public-land, leaving North Dakota locals worried the protests could spark violence and eventually devolved into a militia-like occupation.
Federal officials are not evicting protesters hunkered down at an encampment near the highly controversial Dakota Access Oil pipeline. They believe booting the protesters would harm free speech rights, despite the fact that the land is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Members of the camp are refusing to budge, with some telling reporters that they will only leave once the “big black snake” is finally defeated.
Instead, the Corps is “encouraging” anti-oil pipeline activists to relocate to areas where there is a permit.
“We don’t have the physical ability to go out and evict people — it gives the appearance of not protecting free speech,” she said. “Our hands are really tied.”
The nearly $4 billion project has been blasted by protesters and members of the Standing Rock Sioux, both of which argue the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts. They also argue it could potentially poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.