The protesters have finally abandoned the “Sacred Stone Camp,” and the state has been moving down on the camp to clean up the tattered remains of thousands of protesters over the past six months. It’s time to have a post-mortem discussion of what has and will happen, both with the pipeline and the region as whole, while also evaluating the successes and failures of the protest.
The protest effort garnered nearly 500,000 likes on Facebook, had at least 15 major metropolitan cities sign resolutions of support for their cause, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, and at its peak had over 10,000 people in the protest camps. This would have made the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest camp the 10th largest city in the state by a healthy margin of 30 percent.
Protests made the weekly national news circuit, forcing everyone to talk about the impact of pipelines on the United States and caused an albeit temporary restraining of the completion of the pipeline. Additionally, they brought to the forefront a series of Native American issues and perhaps had the largest mobilization of individuals in support of perceived Native American’s rights in the history of the country.
Unfortunately, the protesters chose to settle in a floodplain, and created roughly 4.5 million pounds of waste that must be removed before the snow melts and the water pushes the waste into the nearby river, which they were ironically protesting to protect.
It would also be the fourth worst single environmental event in the history of the state of North Dakota. The protesters cost the state a total of $33 million directly as of Feb. 17, and this is expected to peak at $40 million by the end of the cleanup efforts, nearly .6 percent of our annual budget, to speak nothing of the greater economic damage caused by lack of productivity and general disorder caused in cities across the state as a result of the protests.
The protesters also seemed to ignore the American legal process, continuing to protest despite both executive and judicial orders to leave and refused the findings of the U.S. Courts, which stated that the pipelines were both legal and could continue at their nearest convenience.
Lastly, the protests frequently got violent, with protesters dealing about $10 million in damages to the construction company’s property, bringing the total direct damage amounting to $5000 caused per person who participated.
With the numbers and facts fully covered, we can discuss the actual politics around the issue, and who was in right versus wrong.
In my opinion the answer is simple, the construction companies, and the pipeline owners were the victims of these protests. In any legitimate political demonstration, violence and property damage are not permissible. The second you start lighting things on fire, you are no longer a protestor, you are a rioter.
The DAPL individuals more claimed to be talking about how water is life, and we need to protect the river, yet are ironically responsible for a large ecological disaster in the state.
Combine this with a disrespect for both legal and legislative authority, and you have a cocktail that leaves a bitter taste to swallow for any “water warrior” and something that demands apology from other activists. While the courts in this country are supposed to be the final arbiter of the law, the protesters continued to harass, loot and pillage the region despite the court finding the pipeline in the right as early as Sept. 2016.
In fact, even the Native American’s in the movement seem to agree with me. Tribal chairman David Archambault II called for protesters to leave nearly three months prior to their ultimate eviction, stating that the protests had largely become pointless, as construction is all but impossible in the deep winter months of North Dakota. Unsurprisingly, however, the protesters ignored the voices of the very people they were claiming to protect to continue at best push their own agenda, at worse receive a paycheck for their “protest”, the latter of which I am far more inclined to believe.
Dave Owen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]