WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama will exercise his executive powers on Monday when he signs an executive order issuing a temporary suspension of habeas corpus in Morton County, North Dakota, where protesters aligned with the Standing Rock Indian reservation are preventing construction of a crucial portion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
“Your voices have been heard,” President Obama declared during an address to demonstrators. “However, I don’t think the answer is to continue stonewalling the inevitable.” The president, who previously expressed support for the demonstrations, called the pipeline an important and “necessary” part of American infrastructure, saying, “This is something that will enhance and strengthen our nation for generations to come.”
The writ of habeas corpus, which grants prisoners or detainees the right to challenge the legality of their imprisonment, is covered in the Suspension Clause of the U.S. Constitution under Article One and, as such, “shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”
For federal authorities in North Dakota, the writ’s suspension allows for far greater powers in terms of arrest and detainment of protesters, journalists, and other disruptive individuals. “Whether they admit it or not, a lot of these people who have presented themselves as reporters are actively taking steps to impede the construction of this pipeline,” said Major General Arnold Dohlmann of the North Dakota Army National Guard. Backed by force of fifteen hundred seasoned soldiers, Maj, Gen. Dohlmann is set to assume command of law enforcement operations in Morton County immediately following President Obama’s suspension of habeas corpus on Monday.
“As it stands, my orders are to detain anyone suspected of interfering with the continued efforts by Energy Transfer Partners and their respective contractors to install the Dakota Access Pipeline. Further, I’ve received authorization from the White House to hold these individuals until construction of the pipeline is completed.” Maj. Gen. Dohlmann said the Army National Guard is in the process of erecting two temporary internment facilities on the outskirts of Morton County where detainees will be held pending the pipeline’s completion. Citing the need for operational security, Dohlmann declined to specify the exact location of the internment facilities.
The decision by the Obama administration comes at a time when clashes between demonstrators and local authorities have reached an all-time high. On Thursday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department announced that a six-hour long police operation targeting a Dakota Access protest site near Backwater Bridge resulted in the arrests of approximately 141 demonstrators.