CANNON BALL, N.D. - The Oceti Sakowin Camp has been completely cleared of protesters.
The sanctuary for Dakota Access Pipeline activists was established six months ago. This summer, the population of the tent city grew to between 5-10,000 people.
Harsh winter weather thinned out some of the demonstrators, then the Army Corps of Engineers set a deadline of February 22 to evacuate the camp.
Activists were encouraged by the Standing Rock Tribe and State of North Dakota to leave by Wednesday, but approximately 100 decided to stay.
Thursday, law enforcement forcibly removed them.
An unstoppable force met immovable objects. A convoy of 200 law enforcement vehicles, including a Bearcat armored personnel carrier, 16 Humvees and more than 200 policemen and National Guard Soldiers entered on Oceti Sakowin Camp Thursday morning.
Lt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol says approximately 50 protesters refused to leave the camp Wednesday. Thursday they were arrested and escorted out.
"They are clearing each building, each structure, each tent to make sure that it is not occupied. We didn't want this, this is not something that we wanted. We don't want to be down here having to remove people from this area, but, unfortunately, there are bad actors that force us into this position," says Iverson.
Iverson says law enforcement will now establish a presence at the camp to make sure there are no attempts to reoccupy it.
"Sometimes things just need to come to an end," says Iverson.
Since August more than 750 protesters have been arrested during demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Cleanup at the camp will now continue. Culturally significant structures like the tepees in the camp won't be destroyed. Lt. Iverson says the relocation of those buildings will be turned over to the Standing Rock Tribe or other Native American agencies.