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Governor orders emergency evacuation of Standing Rock camp citing harsh weather

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North Dakota protesters call the declaration ‘menacing,’ say they won't move

Sioux Tribe Rallies For Environmental Review Of Dakota Access Pipeline In DC Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple (R), has ordered protesters at the site of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to evacuate their camps in the face of bad weather. Dalrymple pointed to incoming storms as the justification for the order, which was signed on Monday, saying that "any person who chooses to enter, re-enter, or stay in the evacuation area does so at their own risk, and assumes any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupation of the evacuation area."

The order specifies that emergency services will be restricted to the camp while it is in effect, with fire trucks and ambulances provided on a case-by-case basis, dependent on approval from the county sheriff and highway patrol. Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leading the protests, issued a statement that said the order was "a menacing action meant to cause fear, and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority."

Central North Dakota is expected to receive between 8 and 13 inches of snow from storms that hit the region late on Monday. The storms, which should last until Wednesday, will also bring 25 mph winds. Jeff Zent, a spokesperson for the governor's administration, said that the state would not be forcibly removing people from the protest camps, as they were situated on US Army Corps of Engineers land. "We fully expect the federal government to take the lead on the management of their property," Zent told local news.

Protesters organized a press conference in response to the order. Attorney Angela Bibens said the governor did not have jurisdiction on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, while others said they had no plans to leave. “We’re not going to be going anywhere, especially in the middle of a blizzard in North Dakota," organizer Kandi Mossett said, while Archambault II argued that it would be more dangerous to “force well-situated campers from their shelters and into the cold.”

Dalrymple's order comes as the FAA banned journalists from flying drones near the Standing Rock protest. Footage of police using water cannons on protesters in freezing temperatures went viral last week after it was captured from the air. The video shows police trying to shoot the drone down with the water cannon after turning it on people standing below.

The Army Corps of Engineers had previously stated that protesters had until December 5th to leave the camps near the proposed pipeline and move to "safer locations," including an area noted by the tribe as a winter camp, and an area the Corps has termed the "free speech zone." A statement issued by the Corps said that people who stayed near the site would do so at their own risk, but that it would not remove protesters forcibly after the December 5th date. Earlier this month, the Corps had indicated that the Dakota Access Pipeline needed more study before it would grant rights to finish its construction, saying it would work with Standing Rock members to reach a timeline.