Pipeline protesters set camps ablaze, flee
Surrounded on all sides by roadblocks and under threat of arrest, demonstrators against the Dakota Access Pipeline have invoked an old ally: fire.
Used by native Americans ceremonially since time immemorial to heal and to cleanse, demonstrators are setting ablaze their tents, teepees and other structures remaining from a protest encampment since last summer as they leave the camp.
The authorities made nine arrests but said they would not fully empty the camp on Wednesday night. No more than 100 demonstrators were believed to remain in the mandatory evacuation zone.
“People have said their last prayers, and offered cedar to the sacred fire and are also burning these structures we have ceremonially built, so they must be ceremonially removed,” said Vanessa Castle of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. “They cannot be bulldozed, no other hands or malice of bad intentions can touch them.”
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office has promised to enforce the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ threat of issuing citations with punishment of up to $5,000 (U.S.) and six months in jail to demonstrators who resisted their order to vacate the camp by 2 p.m. local time Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office is offering bus transport, food, hotel vouchers and even amnesty rides.
Far from ending their protest, many are simply moving to higher ground. The struggle against fossilfuel development is far from over.
Organizers are already turning their attention to other projects, including the TransMountain Pipeline in Canada, where First Nations, Washington tribes and environmental groups on both sides of the border have filed lawsuits and are working on direct action to stop it.