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Law enforcement lined up at the reclaimed frontline camp. (Screenshot: Atsa E'sha Hoferer/Facebook)

Armed With Riot Gear, Militarized Police Begin Forcibly Clearing DAPL Protest Camp

'We will be peaceful, we will be prayerful, we will not retreat'

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

This post may be updated.

Update, 2:30pm EDT:

Arrests have begun at the recently erected frontline camp in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as police and military move in on Indigenous water protectors and their allies in North Dakota.

With law enforcement seemingly interfering with cell signal, it is difficult to get a live feed from the ground. Some social media users were able to post video and updates from the scene:

Update, 11:30am EDT:

According to eyewitness accounts, buses full of law enforcement were traveling toward the frontline camp on Thursday morning.

Earlier:

Indigenous water protectors and their allies are prepared for a crackdown by law enforcement on Thursday, vowing to hold ground they reclaimed through eminent domain last weekend despite threats by Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) developer Energy Transfer Partners and local officials.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners warned on Tuesday that demonstrators occupying land in the pipeline's path—land to which both the corporation and local tribes lay claim—must leave or face prosecution. The new frontline camp sits just north of the main protest camp on federal land near Cannon Ball, a town about 50 miles south of Bismarck.

The Associated Press reported:

Law enforcement officials demanded that the protesters leave the private land on Wednesday, but the protesters refused. It appeared only thick fog and cloudy skies kept a large contingent of law enforcement officers from moving in. Officials have frequently monitored protesters by air.

According to a separate AP report:

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney told reporters that authorities don't want a confrontation but that the protesters "are not willing to bend."

"We have the resources. We could go down there at any time," he said. "We're trying not to."

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said authorities would continue to try for a peaceful resolution but that "we are here to enforce the law as needed."

But the activists have refused to bend. The Bismarck Tribune quoted protest organizer Mekasi Camp-Horinek, of Oklahoma, as calling out, "No surrender, no retreat!" as he walked away from the negotiations with top law enforcement officials on Wednesday afternoon.

The Tribune reported:

Camp-Horinek said he told police the group did not intend to relocate, then warned protesters to expect 300 officers to remove everyone from the camp and take them to jail.

"We will be peaceful, we will be prayerful, we will not retreat," he said.

"We've got to make our bodies a living sacrifice," John Perko, a demonstrator from South Dakota, told the newspaper. "This is the most honorable thing I could be doing right now."

Another member of the movement, Didi Banerji, who lives in Toronto but is originally from the Spirit Lake Sioux reservation in North Dakota, told the AP: "I'm here to die if I have to. I don't want to die but I will."

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, the Morton County sheriff's office—which the Guardian notes "has been leading the police response to the demonstration and conducted mass arrests over the weekend"—announced that the use of dogs by private security guards against protesters last month was potentially illegal. 

The sheriff's office reportedly determined that "dog handlers were not properly licensed to do security work in the state of North Dakota" and passed the results of its investigation along to to the Morton County States Attorney's Office and the North Dakota Private Investigators and Security Board for possible charges.

Private security workers were continuing to monitor water protectors on Wednesday afternoon, Leota Eastman Iron Cloud, a Native American activist from South Dakota who has been at the protests for months, told the Guardian by phone. "We're watching them watching us."


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