Other Views: Pipeline protest must end
Fargo—Patience among law enforcement personnel and the people of North Dakota is running thin over the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's pipeline protest in Morton County. The rule of law has been trampled by the protesters and their illegal encampments on federal and private lands near the Dakota Access Pipeline corridor. Authorities have exercised remarkable restraint in avoiding confrontations, in effect allowing illegal activity to continue. Other than making arrests of individuals who are nabbed engaging in felony vandalism, the illegal protest encampments—where the vandals come from—are getting a pass. For now.
It's got to end. Two federal courts have denied a request from the tribe for an injunction to stop construction on the crude-oil line. The reaction from the tribe and protesters is they will not abide by the courts' rulings. What, then, was the point of the tribe seeking an injunction from the federal court if protest leaders intended to ignore the court if the ruling went against them? Would they have objected if civil authorities ignored a court order that supported the tribe? The tribe's double standard is yet another erosion of the rule of law.
Further complicating the situation is the Obama administration's complicity in undermining the federal courts by ordering federal agencies to call a halt to construction. The signal sent by effectively ignoring a decision that has been confirmed by two federal courts suggests a political agenda, not adherence to the law of the land.
The pipeline construction company said after the latest court rulings that construction on a segment of the pipeline will restart. Citing the rule of law, the company said it intended to go to work. The reaction from the encampment was that protesters will engage in nonviolent activities to stop work. Given what's occurred the last few weeks, it is hard to believe that "nonviolent" actions will be the protesters modus operandi.
Finally, local families who are caught up in the protests do not see the encampments and associated criminal activities as peaceful. They have been harassed on roadways by masked protesters on horseback, they are fearful about getting their kids to schools, they have seen ranchers' fences torn down and private roads blocked, and private property rights violated.
It's got to stop, and it will take more than local and state authorities to stop it. The federal government, by virtue of federal court rulings and the wrongheaded interference by the U.S. Justice Department, has a clear obligation to force a resolution.