(Adds details from protest organizer)
By Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Nov 26 Activists protesting
plans to run an oil pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing
Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota said on Saturday they
have no intention of leaving a protest camp after U.S.
authorities warned it must be vacated by Dec. 5.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the federal
land where the main camp protesting the Dakota Access pipeline
is located, said it would close public access to the area north
of the Cannonball River, including to protesters. It said this
was partly to protect the general public from violent
confrontations between protesters and law enforcement that have
occurred in the area.
Those who stay could face prosecution for trespassing, the
Corps said in a letter to tribal leaders on Friday.
Organizers told a news conference on Saturday at the main
protest site where about 5,000 people are camped that they had
no intention of moving.
"We are staying here committed to our prayer," said Dallas
Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental
Network. "Forced removal and state oppression? This is nothing
new to us as native people."
There are smaller camps on land not subject to the planned
restrictions, including an area south of the Cannonball River
where the Corps said it was establishing a free-speech zone.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, on
Saturday said he supported the decision and the federal
government, which allowed the protesters to become entrenched,
must lead in the camp's peaceful closure.
Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault said he received
notice on Friday about the decision in a letter from Colonel
John Henderson, an Army Corps district commander.
Archambault said the best thing the federal government could
do for safety is deny the easement for the pipeline. "We have an
escalating situation where safety is a concern for everybody."
Archambault said he did not see the letter as a forced
eviction and the tribe would continue to exercise its First
Amendment rights to free speech. The tribe is working on a
location on reservation land should people choose to go there,
"I don't think it will ever be an eviction where forces just
come in and push people out," Archambault said.
Demonstrators have protested for months against the $3.8
billion Dakota Access Pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer
Partners LP, saying it poses a threat to water resources
and sacred Native American sites. The companies say the pipeline
would carry Bakken shale oil more cheaply and safely from North
Dakota to Illinois en route to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) project is mostly complete except
for the segment planned to run under Lake Oahe less than half a
mile north of Standing Rock.
The Obama administration in September postponed final
approval of a permit required to allow tunneling beneath the
lake, a move intended to give federal officials more time to
consult with tribal leaders. But the delay also led to
escalating tensions over the project.
Last weekend, police used water hoses in subfreezing weather
in an attempt to disperse about 400 activists near the proposed
tunnel excavation site.
Demonstrators plan a march at noon Sunday in Washington,
from the Department of Justice to the Washington Monument.
(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrew