Sher­iffs: Obama should be ‘ashamed’

Say state aban­doned as protests rage

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

Fed-up sher­iffs and po­lice chiefs in North Dakota have a mes­sage for Pres­i­dent Obama: Thanks for noth­ing.

In a blis­ter­ing let­ter to Mr. Obama re­leased Mon­day, a dozen polic­ing of­fi­cials ac­cused the ad­min­is­tra­tion of fanning the flames of the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line protest and then re­fus­ing to help lo­cal law en­force­ment stuck with try­ing to main­tain or­der.

The let­ter calls for 100 Border Pa­trol agents and U.S. Mar­shals to as­sist with the “in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion on fed­eral land,” re­fer­ring to pro­test­ers camped out on U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers prop­erty along the Can­non­ball River.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the events in our com­mu­nity has been ap­palling, and it is abun­dantly clear they have no in­ter­est in help­ing the cit­i­zens of North Dakota,” says the let­ter dated Fri­day.

“Frankly, our fed­eral lead­ers should be ashamed of their lack of re­sponse to a dan­ger­ous cri­sis cur­rently in progress on their own soil,” says the let­ter. “Each day this lack of re­sponse con­tin­ues only serves to em­power crim­i­nal pro­tes­tors and sup­port law­less­ness in the name of rad­i­cal po­lit­i­cal agen­das.”

The let­ter, signed by five sher­iffs, six po­lice chiefs and the head of the North Dakota High­way Pa­trol, comes with the ranks of pro­test­ers within the camps thin­ning but not dis­ap­pear­ing as win­ter en­velopes the re­gion.

An es­ti­mated 1,000 ac­tivists re­main in south­ern North Dakota. The Red War­rior camp an­nounced last week that its mem­bers have left, while the Sa­cred Stone Camp has called for “self­suf­fi­cient” pro­test­ers to re­main but for oth­ers to stay away as snow­storms and freez­ing tem­per­a­tures blanket the area.

Sa­cred Stone leader LaDonna Al­lard asked Fri­day on Face­book for car­pen­ters and builders to come and help con­struct win­ter-proof struc­tures.

“Sa­cred Stone Camp is not leav­ing un­til the black snake is dead,” she said, re­fer­ring to the oil pipe­line.

In the let­ter, lo­cal law en­force­ment said that the Army Corps of En­gi­neers has cre­ated a haz­ardous sit­u­a­tion by first de­lay­ing and then deny­ing a pre­vi­ously ap­proved ease­ment for the 1,172-mile pipe­line while al­low­ing pro­test­ers to use fed­eral land as a “sanc­tu­ary” from po­lice.

About 570 ar­rests have been made dur­ing skir­mishes in which ac­tivists set fires, blocked high­ways and bridges, thrown rocks and fe­ces at po­lice, and hurled Molo­tov cock­tails dur­ing protests.

Pro­test­ers have ac­cused po­lice of us­ing “mil­i­ta­rized” tac­tics against “peace­ful” pro­test­ers, in­clud­ing rub­ber bul­lets, wa­ter hoses, tear gas and flash bangs.

In a Dec. 2 let­ter, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch said she had of­fered “com­mu­nity polic­ing re­sources” and made “stren­u­ous ef­forts to open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion” be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers, but the sher­iffs de­scribed the fed­eral re­sponse to date as all talk and no ac­tion.

With­out fed­eral help, the sher­iffs said the safety of law en­force­ment, pro­test­ers and cit­i­zens is at “grave risk,” cit­ing “volatile” com­mu­nity sen­ti­ment against the months of near-daily protest ac­tions.

“[T]here are too many dis­cus­sions where lo­cal groups speak of the pos­si­bil­ity of to take mat­ters into their own hands,” says the let­ter. “We have re­peat­edly spo­ken out against these ideas, but gen­uinely fear emo­tions are run­ning too high and this sit­u­a­tion could lead to tragic con­se­quences.”

The state has spent $10 mil­lion to re­spond to the protests, but the sher­iffs said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­fused even to pro­vide man­power to re­move ac­tivists oc­cu­py­ing fed­eral build­ings in North Dakota.

“[E]very time the of­fices of the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers are protested, who is asked to re­spond? Lo­cal law en­force­ment,” says the let­ter. “When pro­test­ers take over the lobby of the Wil­liam Guy fed­eral build­ing in Bis­marck, who is asked to re­spond? Lo­cal law en­force­ment.”

The bat­tle re­cently landed back in court: A fed­eral judge on Fri­day called for En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners and the corps to file mo­tions by Jan. 31 con­cern­ing the com­pany’s ef­fort to over­ride the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Dec. 5 de­ci­sion to deny the ease­ment on a fi­nal 1,100-foot stretch in North Dakota.

The Corps has said it will pre­pare an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment over the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribe’s con­cerns about wa­ter qual­ity and his­toric relics, while the com­pany has re­fused to reroute the pipe­line, ar­gu­ing that the cur­rent route is the least dis­rup­tive.

The $3.8 bil­lion, four-state pipe­line, de­signed to trans­port about a half-bil­lion bar­rels of oil per day from the Bakken field to Illi­nois, is more than 90 per­cent com­plete.

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