Paying for Standing Rock

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters cost taxpayers $43 million.

 
 

Campers in opposition to the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline set structures on fire in Cannon Ball, N.D., Feb. 22.
Campers in opposition to the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline set structures on fire in Cannon Ball, N.D., Feb. 22. PHOTO:STEPHEN YANG/GETTY IMAGES
 

The Standing Rock protests ended seven months ago, but the saga is far from over. On Monday North Dakota’s Department of Emergency Services announced that taxpayers will have to pay about $43 million in expenses accrued as the state struggled to respond to protesters.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people camped out to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, many from outside the state. Locals frequently reported protesters who had trespassed on their land or stolen property. At state offices the phones rang off the hook; throughout the 233-day protests almost 90,000 people called to discuss the pipeline. A large portion of these calls were hostile or abusive, and state employees had to listen, screening for threats.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department recounted how rioters threw stones, feces and Molotov cocktails at cops, obstructed roads, set fires and even rode on horseback behind a herd of bison, “attempting to stampede them toward law enforcement.” Protesters significantly outnumbered local authorities, who had to summon law enforcement from 11 states for backup. More than 750 protesters were arrested, and at least 107 of those charged have pleaded guilty or been found guilty, some on multiple counts. 

North Dakota’s state court administrator said the number of criminal cases filed in Morton County surged by some 14%, at a time when the clerk of court’s office was already understaffed. To this date 323 protest-related cases are still open and pending. The state had to put aside $2.4 million to provide public defenders for protesters, though not all of that money has been spent.

All of this undermines the Standing Rock protesters’ claims that they were “peaceful and prayerful.” The left threatens democracy when it embraces violence and vandalism, and the government has to spend money to keep rogues under control. North Dakotans will cover most of these costs, but the Department of Justice also provided the state with a $10 million grant, leaving taxpayers nationwide on the hook for these criminal antics.

Appeared in the September 30, 2017, print edition.

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