The Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are being forced to abandon their camp today, and rather than allow the site to be properly cleaned up, they have decided to light it on fire:
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 22, 2017
Burning sections of the camp will most likely make a sanitary and efficient cleanup more difficult for the authorities, which have repeatedly clashed with protesters over the camp’s threat to the environment. But the protesters’ primary consideration is symbolism, as one summed up by tweeting, “Some tipis are still burning. Dakota Access and their army can’t have them.”
An even bigger reason many in the Standing Rock tribe won’t be sorry to see visiting agitators go: The pipeline protest has been detrimental to their most important source of revenue, the Prairie Knights Casino & Resort. The Washington Times reported that the casino:
has taken a $6 million hit amid the turmoil stemming from the protests, thanks in part to agitators who blocked roads, forced the closure of the Backwater Bridge after setting it on fire and left tons of garbage in their wake.
LaRoy Kingsley, spokesman for the reservation casino in Yates, North Dakota, said this week that the venue has undertaken a public relations campaign to lure patrons put off by months of upheaval and clashes with law enforcement.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that the protests and the closing of the bridge have had a significant impact on people’s ability to get to the casino and just their comfort level driving down,” Mr. Kingsley told WDAY-AM host Rob Port.
With a harsh winter afflicting the area, the closure of the Backwater Bridge came at the worst time for the tribe’s revenue. “When the bridge was shut off, the numbers just plummeted,” said the tribe’s CFO Jerome Long Bottom to the Bismarck Tribune. With a critical access route to the casino cut off, it follows that revenue is down from $14 million in 2015 to $8 million in 2016, according to figures in the Washington Times.
The protest posed various difficulties for the Standing Rock. When a blizzard hit, they sacrificed space in the casino to help protesters who were in danger from the inclement weather. Meanwhile, the tribe’s association with visiting protesters has discouraged some from patronizing the casino. It appears that massive taxpayer expenses, blocking road access, and halting energy production are not as popular among North Dakotans as they are among the cosmopolitan admirers of the protest.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set a deadline for protesters to leave by 2 p.m. Central Time this afternoon, and the state of North Dakota is offering not only to clean up the camp’s entire mess but also to give protesters free lodging, food, and travel. After spending $33 million on law enforcement and other expenses associated with the protest, the state considers it worth spending just a little bit more to be rid of the intruders at last.