Multiple arrests at US pipeline protest site

Washington, Feb 23 (IANS) US officials plan to enter a closed camp site near the Dakota Access Pipeline on Thursday following the arrest of 10 people after a deadline to leave the area expired.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said the remaining 25 to 50 or protestors holding out in the Oceti Sakowin camp site will be allowed to leave without being arrested so that contractors can continue cleaning up the protest site near the controversial 1,886-km-long pipeline, CNN reported.

“You know that our big ask for tomorrow (Thursday) is anyone remaining in the camp, we want to make sure that they know they have an opportunity to voluntarily leave,” Burgum said.

“Take your belongings, remove anything that may be culturally significant and we’ll help you get on your way if you need to do that.”

The 10 people who were arrested on the highway on Wednesday outside the camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, had refused commands to leave the area, the officials said.

About 100 protestors voluntarily left before the 2 p.m. deadline which was issued by Burgum on February 15 to allow private contractors to remove waste from the Oceti Sakowin camp area, CNN said.

The order said warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt and increased the risk of flooding, and that those in the flood plain are at risk of personal danger.

Oceti Sakowin was the main camp closest to where the pipeline will go underneath the Missouri River. At the peak of protests, the camp’s population climbed to as many as 10,000 people.

The $3.7 billion pipeline is slated to stretch through four states — from North Dakota into South Dakota, winding through Iowa and ending in southern Illinois. It is expected to move 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the Midwest.

The project is completed except for the contested portion under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation.

The fact that Lake Oahe is located in Indian reserve land also prompted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to object, saying the project threatens the tribe’s “way of life, water, people and land”.

The pipeline moved forward last month after President Donald Trump signed executive actions advancing its approval.