Federal officials are refusing to kick protesters off federal public land in North Dakota, saying they don’t want to harm their free speech rights.
The protesters are blocking a $4 billion oil pipeline that has been approved for right of way across federal land. There have been violent clashes.
“We don’t have the physical ability to go out and evict people — it gives the appearance of not protecting free speech,” a federal official was quoted as saying. “Our hands are really tied.”
Security guards were injured when protesters confront pipeline workers and police later arrested 21 protesters on charges that include resisting arrest, criminal trespassing on private property and possession of stolen property.
The project was expected to create 8,000 to 12,000 jobs during construction.
Meanwhile, in a federal court in Oregon, Ammon and Ryan Bundy of Bunkerville and five others are on trial for occupying federal property and the judge is refusing to allow them to argue that their occupation was a statement about who should really control the public land.
“The ownership of the refuge is not up for discussion,” the judge one of the attorneys this past week. “Please move on.”
The only violence that took place in that occupation occurred when law enforcement shot to death one of the protesters when he tried to go to a meeting and evaded a road block.
It apparently is not the free speech that is an issue but the content of that speech.