- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The millions of dollars raised to fund the increasingly volatile Dakota Access pipeline protest are paying for what North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley slammed Tuesday as an “ongoing criminal enterprise.”

One of the four protest camps — the Sacred Stone camp — alone has raised $1.3 million for supplies on GoFundMe, while its legal defense fund has collected $1.2 million on FundRazr, just two of the thousands of pages posted to aid activists entrenched near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Another group, the Red Warrior Camp, saw its GoFundMe page reach $142,000 on Tuesday as its legal fund hit $105,000 on IndieGogo.

The groups have been protesting the proposed construction of the Energy Transfer Partners’s Dakota Access pipeline, which will stretch from North Dakota to Illinois. Protesters say it will cut through land considered sacred by American Indians and will harm fresh water sources.

Mr. Wrigley, the former U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, said the flood of donations is funding illegal activity as protesters are bailed out after being arrested for trespassing, rioting and other offenses, allowing them to return to the front lines.

“What’s being funded is an ongoing criminal enterprise,” Mr. Wrigley, a Republican, told WDAY-AM talk-show host Rob Port.

SEE ALSO: Red Fawn Fallis, Dakota Access pipeline protester, charged with attempted murder

While most of the roughly 2,000 protesters have been described as “peaceful and prayerful,” their voices were lost Thursday as law enforcement clashed with agitators, who burned nine vehicles, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and set fires along Highway 1806 and nearby bridges.

One activist, Red Fawn Fallis, 37, was charged with attempted murder for firing three shots at deputies as they tried to arrest her.

“There are some who are out there who do want to be there for peaceful purposes and want to be prayerful and want to try to urge action, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that it morphed long ago into unlawful protest and it is now a platform for unlawful activity to project off of it,” Mr. Wrigley said.

He repeated the oft-heard claim that Standing Rock Sioux tribal Chairman David Archambault II, who has called for “peaceful and prayerful” action against the Dakota Access pipeline, has lost control of the protest.

“Of course tribal chairman Archambault doesn’t control this whole protest. Everyone recognizes that,” Mr. Wrigley said. “He won’t acknowledge it now publicly but the day will come when he’ll want to.”

At the same time, there were signs this week that the tribe has begun to rein in the worst offenders.

Frank Archambault, who works security at one of the camps, said Monday that the tribal elders have asked him to “get a grip” on the mayhem, which has been attributed to a younger, more militant cohort at odds with tribal leadership.

“We are not condoning anything like that,” Frank Archambault told Forum News Service. “We are trying to get a hold of the radicals and get them dismissed.”

Red Warrior Camp leader Cody Hall said he has voluntarily removed himself from the encampment after tribal leaders raised alarm over last week’s destruction.

“People just said, ‘Cody, it’s not looking good overall,’” Mr. Hall told Forum News Service.

At the same time, he refused to condemn those who set multiple fires Thursday after law enforcement in riot gear moved in to remove a blockade and protesters camping on private land, saying the violence was “expected.”

“I’m not going to say anything bad about the fire being put up,” Mr. Hall told The Associated Press. “It happens and we are dealing with it.”

The clashes with law enforcement have failed to slow the occupation’s fundraising. The Sacred Stone Camp’s GoFundMe page crossed the $1 million mark recently and became the fourth-largest campaign on the crowdfunding platform.

“GoFundMe makes it easy for communities to come together to fundraise for causes they deeply care about,” CEO Rob Solomon said in a statement. “Over the past six months, this campaign has received growing support, with over 26,500 people donating more than $1.2 million so far to help this important cause.”

GoFundMe alone has thousands of pages asking for Dakota Access contributions, with Sacred Stone-related donations totaling about $1.57 million, said company spokeswoman Katherine Cichy.

The main page, called “The Official-Sacred Stone Camp,” asks supporters to contribute toward the cost of supplies such as food, water, blankets and propane, while the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund says its mission is to cover legal costs for “warriors resisting active construction.”

Meanwhile, the Red Warrior Camp is gearing up for more than prayer, based on its Amazon shopping list, which includes items such as gas masks, police tactical pants, night-vision illuminators, and training sleeves to protect against dog bites.

The crowdfunding donations come in addition to any contributions collected by campaigns such as the Standing Rock Sioux’s DAPL donation fund, whose total has not been disclosed.

The protest’s fundraising success has fueled calls for the state to charge activists for the rising costs associated with the occupation, which began Aug. 10. The Department of Emergency Services is quickly burning through a $6 million loan to cover the costs of keeping protesters off private property.

The Obama administration so far has ignored a plea by the North Dakota congressional delegation to help defray the costs, even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allowed activists to camp on its land.

The administration announced in September that it is conducting a review of the tribal consultation process after the Standing Rock Sioux raised concerns about the project’s impact on water quality and sacred sites.

Mr. Wrigley, who leaves office in December, said the administration is providing aid to some of the “worst agitators” by allowing them to remain embedded on federal property.

“So they’re given comfort by the federal government’s inaction for getting them off of Corps land, where they are still illegally positioned,” Mr. Wrigley said. “And they have sent in no federal law enforcement to speak of.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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