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dakota access protest fires
Some activists set fire to some remaining structures before clearing out of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp near the construction site of the Dakota Access pipeline. Photo: YouTube.

Deadline to clear protest camp prompts fiery farewell

The deadline for protesters to vacate the premises of the Oceti Sakowin camp near the construction of the controversial Dakota Access camp saw about 200 protesters “ceremoniously march” through the camp only 30 minutes before the eviction took place, reports the Huffington Post today. On their way out, some of the remaining activists set fire to a some of the remaining structures, including one at the camp’s main entrance, according to USA Today. At least two people were reported injured and taken to a Bismarck hospital.

You can watch the clips of the fires from MSNBC here, posted on YouTube this morning.

In preparation for the camp’s evacuation, some protesters set up razor wire to block the camp’s entrance while others beat drums and sang songs on their way out of the camp. One man was seen carrying an American flag upside-down. Others set off fireworks.

The camp’s evacuation came after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and the Army Corps of Engineers said it was necessary to clear the area to keep people safe from flooding and to keep debris from contaminating the river system. Activists left behind mounds of garbage and debris as the camp went from thousands of inhabitants to just a few hundred people remaining behind.

A Facebook post by Gov. Burgum outlined travel assistance offering each protester water, snacks, a food voucher, a personal hygiene kit, a health and wellness assessment, hotel lodging for one night, and bus fare for the return home. The travel assistance was established to help clear out the camp ahead of spring flooding.

Authorities warned that any remaining protesters risk arrest.

Cleanup at the site has been temporarily suspended due to a mix of rain and snow. Muddy ground is making it difficult for equipment to continue working. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began cleanup in January, but the warm spring-like temperatures prompted state officials to declare the emergency evacuation to accelerate the cleanup.

“Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams,” said a statement issued by the Governor’s office Feb. 15. “Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited.”

But the protests do not appear to be over, and new camps have been seen on private land near the Oceti Sakowin site. The AP said one camp was set up by the Cheyenne River Sioux about a mile away.

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