Po­lice clear N.D. camp of pipe­line protesters

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By James MacPher­son and Blake Ni­chol­son

CANNON BALL, N.D. — Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers wear­ing riot gear and fir­ing bean bags and pep­per spray Thurs­day ousted protesters from a camp on pri­vate land in the path of the Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line.

Hun­dreds of state and lo­cal po­lice and Na­tional Guard — some on foot and oth­ers driv­ing trucks, mil­i­tary Humvees and buses — be­gan the op­er­a­tion at mid­day and slowly en­veloped the camp, ar­rest­ing more than a dozen protesters who re­fused to leave.

There were no se­ri­ous in­juries, al­though one man was hurt in the leg and re­ceived treat­ment from a medic.

Protesters ini­tially set up road­blocks and started some fires to slow the law en­force­ment ad­vance but even­tu­ally re­treated.

Mor­ton County Sher­iff Kyle Kirch­meier said that the camp had been cleared by night­fall al­though po­lice were still deal­ing with pro- testers on the perime­ter.

“We’re not leav­ing the area,” Kirch­meier said. “We are just go­ing to make sure that we main­tain a pres­ence in the area so the road­way stays open, and to keep in­di­vid­u­als from camp­ing on pri­vate land.”

The con­fronta­tion marked a ma­jor es­ca­la­tion of a protest that has raged for months.

Op­po­nents of the pipe­line moved in over the week­end to es­tab­lish a camp on pri­vate land where the de­vel­oper was work­ing to com­plete the 1,200-mile pipe­line de­signed to carry oil from western North Dakota to Illi­nois. The route of the pipe­line skirts the Stand­ing Rock Reser­va­tion and the tribe said it could en­dan­ger wa­ter sup­plies and dis­turb cul­tural sites.

The state of North Dakota said no sen­si­tive cul­tural sites have been found in the area.

The tribe sought to block the pipe­line in court, chal­leng­ing the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers’ de­ci­sion grant­ing per­mits at more than 200 wa­ter cross­ings. But a fed­eral judge in Septem­ber de­nied their re­quest to block con­struc­tion. Three fed­eral agen­cies then stepped in and or­dered con­struc­tion to halt on Corps- owned land around Lake Oahe, a wide spot of the Mis­souri River, while the Corps re­viewed its de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Con­struc­tion was al­lowed to con­tinue on pri­vate land owned by de­vel­oper En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners.

The op­er­a­tion to push out the protesters be­gan a day after they had re­fused to leave vol­un­tar­ily.

The camp is north of a more per­ma­nent and larger en­camp­ment on fed­er­al­ly­owned land, which has been the main stag­ing area for hun­dreds of protesters, in­clud­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans from across North Amer­ica, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and some celebri­ties.

Aaron John­son, 50, a mem­ber of the Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota, said he and other protesters weren’t happy with the day’s out­come.

“I came here for peace and prayer,” he said. “When some­body sets some­thing on fire, that’s not peace and prayer.”

MIKE MCCLEARY/THE BIS­MARCK (N.D.) TRI­BUNE

Protesters briefly stand their ground as po­lice and sol­diers pre­pare to move in Thurs­day.

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