Activists evicted from various Dakota Access Pipeline protest campsites in North Dakota are claiming victory even as the highly-contested oil project nears completion.
Protesters believe they can take what they learned from the so-called anti-DAPL demonstrations and apply them to other areas of the country where pipelines are being constructed. They also believe their efforts successfully brought the oil project to the public’s attention.
One activist, Tonya Olsen, an American Indian who had lived at the camp for nearly four months, said she was upset about being booted from the ramshackle teepee she has called home since December. She has since moved to another camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation.
“A lot of people will take what they’ve learned from this movement and take it to another one,” Olsen told Reuters. She may join a protest if one forms against the Keystone XL, another contentious pipeline environmentalists have targeted in recent years.
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.
The protest sites slowly started to dwindle to about 500 people after former President Barack Obama rejected the project’s proposed route across Lake Oahe. President Donald Trump’s decision to approve the project in January, however, generated renewed actions from the those remaining.
Demonstrators began setting fire to wooden structures in the campsite earlier this week ahead of a deadline set to close the area. They supposedly burned the campsite as part of ceremony of leaving.
Other activists dismiss the idea the anti-DAPL effort was a failure. Anthony Gazotti, an activist from Denver, for one, said he does not plan on leaving the campsite. He believes the protest was a success because it had raised awareness of pipeline issues nationwide.
“It’s never been about just stopping that pipeline,” he told U.S. News & World Report.
Gazotti’s comments come as environmentalists and members of Standing Rock have fought legal battles for months trying to prevent the multi-state project from being constructed. They also claim the DAPL would poison the tribe’s water supply and trample its sacred land.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the multi-billion-dollar project, expects the pipeline will be finished and ready to transport oil by mid-March.
June Sapiel, an Indian American from Maine, also rejected the idea that the protesters in North Dakota had failed.
“It’s waking people up,” she told reporters in front of a friend’s yurt where she has been staying. “We’re going to go out there and just keep doing it.”
Sanitation crews began working earlier in February on cleaning up hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from the Cannonball campsite. The debris needs to be removed from the city-sized campsite before spring thaw floods the area.
Personnel claim they are combing the site for dead bodies rolled up in tarps, and are using bulldozers and earth-moving equipment to scrape the area clean of debris.
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