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Army Corps of Engineers tells pipeline protesters to leave

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The letter was sent to the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on Friday.

She said the Corps of Engineers were incredibly patient with the protesters up to this point, and although protecting free speech is important, when laws are broken people need to be held accountable.

Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers didn't immediately return multiple messages Friday or Saturday seeking comment and verification of the letter.

The protest movement against the four-state, $3.8-billion Dakota Access oil pipeline has grown in strength since it began this summer, drawing several hundred tribes, environmentalists and activists from across the country.

The standoff between protesters and authorities has grown more confrontational as of late, with some protesters reporting they've been hit with nonlethal bullets, tear gas and water hoses while temperatures were below freezing. After December 5, according to Army Corps Col. John W. Henderson, the land - which is north of the Cannonball River in Cannon Ball, North Dakota - will be closed to all public use and access, and anyone violating the ban may be prosecuted for trespassing.

The Army Corps of Engineers has told the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that they have until December 5 to vacate the Army Corps-managed land that has become the site of one of three encampments supporting the tribe's anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protest. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman's response to ACOE's plan to evict the camps includes the explanation that "Treaties are the supreme law of the land and the Constitution of the United States demands that they be respected".

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"We are staying here committed to our prayer", said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. There are smaller camps on land not subject to the planned restrictions, including an area south of the Cannonball River where the Corps said it was establishing a free-speech zone. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said the pipeline could be rerouted, but Energy Transfer Partners is opposed to the idea. "But our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever".

Dalrymple says that the federal government has allowed protesters to camp on Corps land for more than 100 days, so it is the government's responsibility to lead the camp's peaceful closure.

Dalrymple says he supports the Corps' decision, citing public safety concerns and health risks due to camping in winter conditions.

However, pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says the 1,885-km pipeline is safe and the fastest route to bring Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to oil refineries in the US Gulf Coast.

In September, the government postponed final approval of the permit to build the pipeline under the lake in order to give federal officials more time to consult with the tribe.

In response to the Army Corps of Engineers' announcement, tribal chairman David Archambault II did not say he would ask people to move to a free speech zone, but instead again called on the U.S. government to deny permits for the pipeline.

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