The Bismarck Tribune recently reported the state of North Dakota is still seeking nearly $40 million in expenses it incurred policing the largescale protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline more than three years ago. Law enforcement from North Dakota and several additional states responded to the protests – making 761 arrests in a six-month span.
In a hearing this week in a U.S. District Court in Bismarck, the federal government called for the state’s lawsuit to be dismissed. The Tribune reports:
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem countered that the state was “wracked by over seven months of catastrophe as a result of the protests that occurred” and said he was “disappointed in my federal government, to say the least.”
“The Army Corps of Engineers has done nothing but avoid and evade their responsibility,” he said.
Thousands of protesters poured into North Dakota from across the country – illegally camping on federal land near the pipeline’s route, attacking law enforcement, and leaving behind nearly 500 dumpsters worth of garbage – waste that would have ended up in the river protesters had claimed to be protecting. Protesters also raised upwards of $8 million through crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe – it is unclear how those funds were dispersed.
Further, the Tribune points out that in November 2016, the Corps designated a “free speech zone” on its land south of Cannonball River and asked protesters to move there – leaving the land north of the river in what was known as the “Oceti Sakowin” camp. The Tribune writes:
Some protesters continued to occupy the land for another four months until law enforcement raided the camp in February 2017 and arrested the remaining protesters who refused to leave.
The state argued in court documents that the Corps “invited” and “encouraged” demonstrators to protest there by issuing the letter establishing the free speech zone and by processing protesters’ applications for a permit to use the land, in violation of policies restricting the use of such land to recreational purposes.