MORTON COUNTY, N.D. - Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline called for a "national day of action" on Tuesday, Oct. 25, by asking supporters to share prayers and songs for more than 100 people arrested during protests this past weekend.
The call for action, which will include an appearance by actor Mark Ruffalo, may signal more tense relations in the showdown over the pipeline construction as Dakota Access LLC, which recently purchased more than 7,000 acres of land - including most of Cannonball Ranch - to facilitate construction of the $3.8 billion project, issued a statement about people trespassing on the land.
"We encourage all people trespassing to vacate the land immediately," the statement released Tuesday morning said. "Alternatively and in coordination with local law enforcement and county/state officials, all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land. Lawless behavior will not be tolerated."
Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, said in a letter to the North Dakota attorney general's office Monday that it purchased the ranch land in and around the pipeline route in southern Morton County last month "to enhance the safety of its workers" and "to better manage ingress and egress to the right of way."
The company had to explain how its purchase of more than 7,000 acres-including most of the Cannonball Ranch-complied with the state's anti-corporate farming law, which prohibits non-family corporations from owning farm and ranch land, with some exceptions, including for industrial purposes.
In Minneapolis, the Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light planned a rally for noon Tuesday, stating faith leaders and residents were "outraged" by Hennepin County Sheriff's Department personnel to North Dakota for "the hyper-militarized repression of peaceful demonstrations" opposing the pipeline.
A Facebook page promoting the day of action said Ruffalo, an actor and director who has taken on social activist causes, will visit Prairie Knights Pavilion on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Tuesday night.
Ruffalo is co-founder of The Solutions Project, which promotes clean and renewable energy, and plans to deliver solar trailers on Wednesday to Standing Rock, according to a news release from The Solutions Project.
"Ruffalo is an outspoken critic of the fossil fuel industry for economic, health and environmental reasons," the release states. "In New York, Ruffalo joined advocates in their efforts to win a statewide ban on fracking."
On Monday, Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz called on Standing Rock Tribe Chairman David Archambault II to condemn the illegal actions of the protesters, which led to 127 arrests over the weekend in an increasingly tense situation.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday, Oct. 24, said it is closely monitoring the situation and has offered technical assistance and community policing resources, said Wyn Hornbuckle, the department's deputy director of public affairs.
The department reiterated its call for Dakota Access to voluntarily stop construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorizes construction on Corps land, Hornbuckle said.
The Corps is currently withholding the lake crossing easement for Dakota Access. In a Sept. 9 statement with the Justice Department and Department of Interior, the Corps said it needed to determine whether it should reconsider its previous decisions about the lake crossing under the National Environmental Policy Act or other laws.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is suing the Corps over permits issued for the four-state pipeline, which would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Tribal members fear the pipeline would leak and contaminate their water supply, and they say construction will desecrate sacred sites on their ancestral lands.
Law enforcement from South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Indiana and Nebraska are now providing additional manpower as protesters have established a roadblock and a new camp on private property east of Highway 1806 that grew in size Monday.
"We have made 1806 our no-surrender line," said Joye Braun, a protest organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.
A statement from groups involved in the protest explained that the self-described "water protectors" took back unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty between the federal government and Plains tribes, including the Lakota and Dakota.
"We will be occupying this land and staying here until this pipeline is permanently stopped," said Mekasi Camp-Horinek, a coordinator of the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main protest camp about two miles south of the frontline camp.
Archambault said in a statement the tribe does not condone reports of illegal actions, but tribal leaders believe the militarization of local law enforcement and the enlistment of multiple agencies is "needlessly escalating violence and unlawful arrests."
He wrote a letter Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch seeking a Department of Justice investigation into potential civil rights violations by state and local government, citing the militarization of police, arrests of journalists and other First Amendment infringements, constant surveillance and police checkpoints.
"Too often these kinds of investigations take place only after some event regarding excessive force by the police has led to a well-publicized tragedy," Archambault wrote. "I hope and pray that you will see the wisdom of acting now in an effort to prevent such a tragedy here."
Since Aug. 10, there have been 269 arrests on a variety of charges.