The last people remaining at a Dakota Access pipeline protest camp prayed and set fire to a handful of wooden structures on Wednesday, hours ahead of a deadline set by the Army Corps of Engineers to close the camp. Protesters said burning the structures—which appeared to include a yurt and a teepee—was part of the leaving ceremony, the AP reports. The Corps has set a 2pm deadline for the camp to be emptied ahead of potential spring flooding. A massive cleanup effort has been underway for weeks, first by protesters and now with the Corps set to join in removing debris left over several months. Morton County Sheriff's deputies can arrest people who won't leave. Army Corps rangers can't make arrests, but they can write citations for various offenses, including trespassing, that carry a maximum punishment of a $5,000 fine or six months in jail.
A Morton County Sheriff's rep warns that though there could be large-scale arrests, "we prefer to handle this in a more diplomatic, understanding way." She adds that a transition center will be set up to help protesters who don't have a place to go. The protest camp, on federal land in southern North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the pipeline route, has at times housed thousands of people, though it's dwindled to just a couple of hundred as the pipeline battle has largely moved into the courts. Some protesters plan to move, but others are ready to go to jail and "will engage in peaceful, civil resistance," per an activist. (Read more Dakota Access Pipeline stories.)