Activists remaining at a Dakota Access pipeline protest campsite set wooden structures on fire Wednesday ahead of a deadline set to close the area.
The activists said burning the tepees was part of the ceremony of leaving. Some said they don’t expect trouble during the eviction.
“People are being very mindful, trying very hard to stay in prayer, to stay positive,” Nestor Silva, an anti-DAPL protester from California, told reporters. “I am not aware of any plans for belligerence.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has set a 2 p.m. deadline for the camp to be evacuated before snow melt washes tons of trash left from the campsites into the Missouri River. A massive cleanup effort has been underway for weeks.
Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman with the Morton County Police Department, said there could be large-scale arrests at the campsite if activists remain after the deadline. She said law enforcement officials do not think it will come to that.
“We prefer to handle this in a more diplomatic, understanding way,” Herr said.
A handful of activists warn there could be violence.
“Most of the pipeline’s opponents intend on leaving, but some are prepared to “engage in peaceful, civil resistance … holding hands, standing in prayer,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a member of Standing Rock Sioux, one of the tribes opposing the multi-billion pipeline.
Sanitation crews have been working night-and-day to clean up hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from the DAPL construction site. The debris needs to be removed from the city-sized campsite before spring thaw floods the area.
Relevant personnel are combing the site for dead bodies rolled up in tarps, as well as weapons that could be used against Morton County police officers. They are using bulldozers and earth-moving equipment to scrape the area clean of debris.
Tens of thousands of environmentalists and Indian American tribes have settled at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers to derail the project, which would shuttle 500,000 barrels of Bakken oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
Standing Rock’s members believe the DAPL could trample tribal artifacts and poison the Missouri River. Cultural surveys conducted last year by the Army Corps of Engineers, however, show the pipeline avoided tribal lands.
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