Seventy six water protectors were arrested just hours after President Donald Trump signed executive actions Tuesday clearing the path for construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
The arrests occurred after a group of activists established a new camp near the pipeline construction.
Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation, told The Guardian that water protectors felt a need to take a stand.
“We basically started to see police mobilizing from all directions. Someone came along and told us we had about 15 minutes before the camp would get raided,” she said.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) February 2, 2017
According to a Morton County Sheriff’s Department report, “officers met twice on the Backwater Bridge with a group representing the rogue camp to discuss the illegal camp. The group was told they were committing criminal trespassing on private property and needed to leave immediately. The group was given a period of time to start dismantling the camp and leave. They did not show signs of starting to leave even after multiple warnings and said they would not leave. This led to the law enforcement decision to take action to enforce the law and evict the rogue group of protesters.”
On January 24, Trump signed five executive actions, two of which will advance construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The other three memorandums will serve to expedite environmental reviews for high priority projects.
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network, said the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Sioux Tribes were never consulted by Trump or his Administration on this decision that further violates the treaty rights of the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota people.
“These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples,” Goldtooth said. “The actions by the president today demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.”
The arrestees were transported to Morton County Correctional Center as well as the Mercer County Jail in Stanton, Cass County Jail in Fargo, Stutsman County Correctional Center in Jamestown and the Barnes County Correctional Center in Valley City.
Law enforcement has made 696 arrests during protest activity since August 10, 2016.