The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Friday that protesters demonstrating against a controversial pipeline project in the area will be forced out by Dec. 5 as authorities reclaim the area. John W. Henderson, a district commander with the Corps, said the closure of the area north of the Cannonball River was necessary to “prevent death, illness or serious injury” to inhabitants in the camp caused by harsh winter weather, and to “protect the public from violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement.” Opponents of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline have been occupying the area near the construction site for months, warning that the project may harm sacred Native American sites.
Henderson’s announcement came as protests over the pipeline spread to a shopping mall in Bismarck, where more than 30 protesters were arrested Friday. Pipeline protesters held a rally in the Kirkwood Mall on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, to draw attention to the controversy over the pipeline. The rally saw demonstrators form a prayer circle right inside the entrance of the shopping center, ignoring demands from mall management to stop blocking the area. About 100 protesters took part in the rally, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and at least 33 were arrested for trespassing after refusing to get out of the way.