North Dakota police are clearing a recently-established water protector camp just a week after President Trump signed a memorandum ordering the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction to be sped up.
A witness at the scene described a convoy of militarised police descending on the camp and claimed there were approximately sixty vehicles including tanks approaching the area.
The camp, known as Last Child Camp, sits on private land across the road from the main entrance to the Oceti Sakowin camp, according to spokesman Dallas Goldtooth.
Goldtooth claims that police have communicated to the water protectors that they do not currently intend to raid the larger Oceti Sakowin camp.
A statement from the Morton County police department claims that the new camp consists of a ‘rogue group of some of the more aggressive elements of the protest camp’ and was established in direct opposition to the wishes of the tribal council and district leaders.
“In spite of the actions of this rogue group, we will strive to continue efforts on both sides to move forward and find common ground as steps are taken to ensure public safety and begin healing the relationships that are so important to the region and our state,” says Governor Doug Burgum.
The statement claims that the Governor, Morton County Sheriff and the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have agreed to vacate the camps before flooding begins in early spring.
“Public safety, including that of residents and protesters alike, is our number one priority,” says Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier.
In a statement, Standing Rock Sioux tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II has also criticised the establishment of the Last Child camp, which sits on private land.
“Those who planned to occupy the new camp are putting all of our work at risk,” says Archambault, “They also put peoples’ lives at risk. We have seen what brutality law enforcement can inflict with little provocation.
“There could be sacred sites on that property. These continuing actions in the face of the tribes’ plea to stand down only harm the cause that everyone came here to support.”
Archambault has confirmed that Standing Rock Sioux intend to withdraw from the occupation and will instead pursue their battle to reroute the DAPL through the federal courts.
“Please, once again, we ask that people do not return to camp,” says Archambault, “The fight is no longer here, but in the halls and courts of the federal government. Here at the camp, those who remain should be working together to help clean and restore the land”.