North Dakota — Shortly after issuing the notice it would block all supplies bound for Standing Rock, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department backed away somewhat, saying it would take a passive role to try to prevent supplies from reaching the camps, by issuing hefty $1,000 fines for vehicles attempting such deliveries — saying it had interpreted the evacuation order as a reason for a blockade.
“That is the understanding that we had initially but we had to get that clarified,” Herr toldReuters. “The governor is more interested in public safety than setting up a road block and turning people away.”
This startling announcement of any attempt at a supply blockage from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department comes during a week of shocking news for Standing Rock Sioux water protectors and their allies camped near the Missouri River to block construction of the highly contentious Dakota Access Pipeline.
An eviction notice letter sent by the Army Corps of Engineers to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier on Friday sparked furious outrage from around the world — and was met with firm resistance from both tribes.
Clarifying later no force would be used to effect this eviction, the Army Corps stated, “Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state, or local laws.”
Before the shock wore off from that letter, on Monday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple confounded matters further with the issuance of an emergency evacuation order for the same Army Corps-managed, water protector-occupied land as a winter storm advanced on the area.
Although neither U.S. government-issued order would apply had treaties from the 1800s been honored, the attorneys scrambled to determine if the governor’s evacuation supplanted the Army Corps’ eviction — as the date for the camps to become officially illegal would be moved forward significantly from December 5. Archambault denounced Dalrymple’s order as an intimidation tactic and determined it invalid.
However, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department appears to have opportuned the current evacuation order to escalate its curtailment of the basic human rights of the thousands of water protectors estimated to now occupy camps north of the Cannonball River.
Legally and technically speaking, both orders effectively close the camps — except for Sacred Stone Camp, located south of the river — to access by both the public and emergency services.
Thousands of veterans have been planning to arrive at the camps on December 4 to defend water protectors from brutal police tactics employed by the multi-state coalition of police led by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department — and they haven’t yet changed those plans.
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According to an update from Reuters, Governor Dalrymple’s spokesman Jeff Zent said, “There is not going to be any blockade of supplies.”
While so much about these breaking developments remains unclear thanks to a lack of information from authorities and officials, one thing is certain. Blocking food and supplies, by any means, from reaching water protectors who have vowed to stay through the winter is not only a violation of human rights and basic decency — if effective, it has the potential to be an horrific tragedy in the making.
[UPDATE] In a recent post to social media, the American Civil Liberties Union urged anyone who have been pulled over while delivering supplies to Standing Rock to contact them for an ongoing investigation into the constitutionality of the governor's mandatory evacuation order:
Reuters originally reported: “Supplies, including food and building materials, will be blocked from entering the main camp following Governor Jack Dalrymple's signing of an ‘emergency evacuation’ order on Monday, said Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman from the Morton County Sheriff's Department.”
Herr flatly stated, according to Reuters, “They have deliveries, retailers that are delivering to them - we will turn around any of those services.”
Although the governor’s order went into effect immediately, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong noted no deliveries to the camps had yet been turned away as of Tuesday morning.
However, ‘The building materials intended for the site are a top priority because the camp is not zoned for permanent structures,’Reuters reported she said. ‘Propane tanks also will be blocked because they have been used in attacks against law enforcement.’
The latter claim has been proven false by eyewitness video from the night of November 20-21, when law enforcement assaulted peaceful water protectors for over six hours in a non-stop barrage of rubber bullets, tear gas, impact and concussion grenades, and even weaponized water — in temperatures dropping into the low 20s Fahrenheit. Sophia Wilansky’s arm was nearly ripped from her body when an impact grenade exploded. But the sheriff denies police used any weapon that could have caused such damage, despite evidence collected from the scene and by surgeons working to repair her traumatic wound.
Reuters backed away from its original report after the Morton County Sheriff's Department adjusted its plans in accordance to the governor's intent.
This article has been updated to reflect those changes.