(Adds details on lawsuit, comments by White House background)
By Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Nov 29 North Dakota officials
on Tuesday moved to block supplies from reaching oil pipeline
protesters at a camp near the construction site, threatening to
use hefty fines to keep demonstrators from receiving food,
building materials and even portable bathrooms.
Activists have spent months protesting plans to route the
$3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the
Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project poses a
threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.
State officials said on Tuesday they would fine anyone
bringing prohibited items into the main protest camp following
Governor Jack Dalrymple's "emergency evacuation" order on
Monday. Earlier, officials had warned of a physical
blockade, but the governor's office backed away from that.
Law enforcement would take a more "passive role" than
enforcing a blockade, said Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the
Morton County Sheriff's Department.
"The governor is more interested in public safety than
setting up a road block and turning people away," Herr said by
Officers will stop vehicles they believe are headed to the
camp and inform drivers they are committing an infraction and
could be fined $1,000.
These penalties should serve as a hindrance, according to
Cecily Fong, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of
"So that effectively is going to block that stuff
(supplies), but there is not going to be a hard road block,"
Fong said by telephone.
A spokeswoman from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was not
immediately available for comment.
North Dakota Governor-elect Doug Burgum, a Republican,
declined to comment.
The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) pipeline project, owned by
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly
complete except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a
reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
Thousands of people are protesting at camps located on U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers land, north of the Cannonball River in
Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The main protest camp near Cannon
Ball is called Oceti Sakowin, the original name of the Sioux,
meaning Seven Council Fires.
Protest leaders said state officials and local law
enforcement officers were "bullying" demonstrators with the
threat of fines.
"It's bogus and I don't know about the legality of it," said
Kandi Mossett, an organizer with Indigenous Environmental
Network. "We're not afraid. We're moving in and out of the camp
at will. So people shouldn't be afraid of coming and supporting
the water protectors. They've been bullying us since day one."
'HARSH WINTER CONDITIONS'
Dalrymple's evacuation order was issued on Monday due to the
"harsh winter conditions." Snow and wind gusts up to 45 mph (73
kph) were forecast for Tuesday, according to the National
Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, law enforcement on
Nov. 21 used water cannons to disperse protesters who had
blockaded a highway.
Demonstrators and law enforcement have clashed over the
months since protests began, with demonstrators claiming
excessive use of force by law enforcement.
On Tuesday, the National Lawyers Guild filed a class action
in U.S. District Court in North Dakota on behalf of injured
protesters, claiming local authorities in Morton and Stutsman
counties used excessive force.
The civil rights complaint said there were no orders to
disperse or warnings issued before local police turned water
cannons and tear gas on the protest. The lawsuit seeks
Stutsman County Auditor Casey Bradley said the county
sheriff's office was unaware of the lawsuit and unable to
comment on the allegations.
Officers were justified in using water cannons because of
the threat posed by demonstrators, Fong and Herr said. Law
enforcement gave numerous warnings for protesters to disperse,
North Dakota officials have issued several requests for
additional help from federal law enforcement in light of the
demonstrators. However, the Army Corps said Monday its order to
evacuate the primary protest camp by Dec. 5 would not include
forcibly removing people from the land.
The Obama administration in September postponed final
approval of a Army Corps' permit required to allow tunneling
beneath the lake, a move intended to give federal officials more
time to consult tribal leaders.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a Tuesday news
briefing that Obama believes law enforcement has "an obligation"
to show restraint and protesters have a "responsibility" to
In a related protest, prosecutors suspended charges against
Deia Schlosberg, a documentary maker arrested while filming as
environmental protesters attempted to shut down the flow of oil
through pipelines carrying crude from Canada to the United
States in October.
(Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Additional reporting
by David Gaffen and Mica Rosenberg in New York, Ernest Scheyder
in Houston, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Roberta Rampton and
Doina Chiacu in Washington.; Editing by Ben Klayman, Matthew
Lewis and Andrew Hay)