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National

Deadline Passes For Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters To Leave

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A deadline has come and gone for protesters of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to clear the camp that they've inhabited for months. This could be the last we hear of this standoff because the camp, which sits on federal land, is about to be inundated with spring floods, and the pipeline is nearly complete.

Dan Gunderson of Minnesota Public Radio has been talking with some of the last holdouts, and he joins us now from just outside the camp. Hi, Dan.

DAN GUNDERSON, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

SHAPIRO: So people we're told they had until 2:00 p.m. today local time to leave the area. What happened after that deadline passed?

GUNDERSON: Well, for several hours, not much of anything happened. There were some people leaving the camp with their possessions. There were people milling around outside the camp entrance. There were a lot of law enforcement there, a hundred or more police officers. And late this afternoon, nine people were arrested according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, and they were arrested just outside the camp because they refused law enforcement's orders to disperse and leave the area.

SHAPIRO: Now, beyond those nine arrests, have there have been confrontations between the protesters and the police?

GUNDERSON: No, I'm not aware of any confrontations. And the protesters I talked to said they did not want to have confrontations because they wanted this to be a peaceful end to the protest camp. And so they weren't planning any - at least that I was aware of - any confrontations with law enforcement. And I'm not aware of any confrontations that happened.

There was a plan to have a sort of ceremonial arrest where a number of people who wanted to be arrested would be in prayer, and they would be able to be arrested. That never happened. And apparently, according to law enforcement, many of those protesters have now left the camp.

SHAPIRO: Are there any other legal or other options available for the Sioux to try to prevent the pipeline from being built?

GUNDERSON: Well, of course the pipeline is in its - the final phases are being completed now. You know, as we speak, construction is underway to bore that pipe, the final leg of pipe under the Missouri River reservoir, Lake Oahe. And the company that's building the line is hoping to have oil flowing by perhaps the middle of March. So the tribe still has a case in federal court.

They asked the judge for a restraining order to stop this boring under the river until the case could be resolved. The judge said he wasn't going to issue a temporary restraining order because there was no potential for harm until oil was actually flowing through that pipe. So I'm sure there will be a lot more arguments to come in that case in federal court. As to how that will end, I don't know.

The other thing that some of the protesters are trying to do is get people to divest money, take their money out of banks that are helping to fund this pipeline. So that's been a national initiative undertaken by a number of groups that have been involved in this protest.

SHAPIRO: That's Dan Gunderson of Minnesota Public Radio speaking with us from just outside Cannon Ball, N.D. Thanks, Dan.

GUNDERSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.