Wednesday marked the deadline for Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to leave the site. According to reports, the majority of protesters have left the camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota after receiving an order to evacuate from the Army Corps of Engineers and the governor of North Dakota. However, a few diehard activists remained at Standing Rock, vowing to continue the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Last week, Gov. Doug Burgum signed an executive order demanding that protesters — who had ignored earlier orders — evacuate the site, noting environmental concerns regarding flooding and garbage accumulation at the camps. Though many protesters left in December, some 300 stayed through the winter.
On Wednesday, some structures and tents in the camp were burned, though from reports it is unclear whether this was meant as an act of protest, or simply an attempt to clear the area.
The remaining protesters don’t actually appear to have — at least, the formal — support of the Sioux Standing Rock Tribe, who began the protests last year. The tribe argued that the pipeline would threaten their drinking water, and also violated sacred burial sites. However, in January, the tribe council formally requested that protesters leave the camp, also citing flooding concerns, and saying the fight belonged in the court system.
But the remaining protesters seem unwilling to budge. “I'm not going anywhere,” protester Valerie Armstrong told CNN. “I will stay and pray, even if they come to remove us.” Any protesters remaining after 2 p.m. local time Wednesday will face the prospect of arrest.
Some of the remaining protesters have moved to establish nearby camps, including one less than a mile away set up by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, according to CBS News.
Though at one point, thousands of people were staying in the camps, protesters were dealt a difficult blow when shortly after his inauguration, Donald Trump signed executive orders pushing forward the Dakota Access Pipeline and the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
Still, as the deadline looms and despite the burning structures, things appear to be peaceful in the camps, for now. Twitter user Andrew Kimmel is posting photos and video of the final moments at the Oceti Sakowin camp.
According to MSNBC, authorities are offering protesters willing to leave peacefully transportation to Bismarck, North Dakota, where they can get assistance getting home. Otherwise, though, protesters face the real risk of being arrested and taken to jail.
With the future of the protest in doubt and most of the barriers for the pipeline’s construction removed, things look dire for the movement that brought thousands of people to this remote area of North Dakota. Still, the fight continues in other ways. For example, Wells Fargo bank has come under scrutiny for its investment in the project. Earlier this month, the city of Seattle voted to cut ties with Wells Fargo, which could cost the bank up to $3 billion. Even as protests on the controversial pipeline site may be fading, the fight looks like it will continue in other and, perhaps, unexpected way.