Po­lice douse pipe­line pro­test­ers in sub­freez­ing weather

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - KICKOFF - By James MacPher­son and Blake Ni­chol­son

Au­thor­i­ties on Mon­day de­fended their de­ci­sion to douse pro­test­ers with wa­ter dur­ing a skir­mish in sub­freez­ing weather near the Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line, and or­ga­niz­ers said at least 17 pro­test­ers were taken to the hos­pi­tal — in­clud­ing some who were treated for hy­pother­mia.

The clash oc­curred late Sun­day and early Mon­day as pro­test­ers try­ing to push past a long-blocked bridge on a state high­way were turned back by au­thor­i­ties us­ing tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets and wa­ter hoses. One of­fi­cer was in­jured when struck in the head with a rock. One pro­tester was ar­rested.

Pro­test­ers and of­fi­cers massed at the bridge again late Mon­day morn­ing, but pro­test­ers dis­persed a few hours later at the re­quest of tribal el­ders af­ter po­lice warned the crowd that they’d iden­ti­fied firearms and that any­one with a weapon should leave.

The Stand­ing Rock Sioux and oth­ers op­pose the 1,200-mile, four-state pipe­line be­ing built to carry oil from west­ern North Dakota to a ship­ping point in Illi­nois be­cause they say it threat­ens drinking wa­ter on their nearby reser­va­tion and cul­tural sites. Pipe­line de­vel­oper En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners has said no sites have been disturbed and that the $3.8 bil­lion pipe­line will be safe.

The pipe­line is largely com­plete ex­cept for the sec­tion un­der a Mis­souri River reser­voir in south­ern North Dakota, and ETP Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Kelcy War­ren said Fri­day the com­pany is un­will­ing to reroute the project.

What’s known as the Back­wa­ter Bridge on state High­way 1806 has been shut down for weeks be­cause au­thor­i­ties say it might be un­safe due to ear­lier fires set by pro­test­ers. Pro­test­ers say the closed bridge near their main camp blocks emer­gency ser­vices, and they ac­cuse au­thor­i­ties of keep­ing it shut down to block their ac­cess to pipe­line con­struc­tion sites.

Au­thor­i­ties dis­pute that. Ad­di­tional test­ing is needed to make sure the bridge is safe, and that can’t be done un­til the area is deemed safe for in­spec­tors, said state Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment spokes­woman Jamie Ol­son.

At least 17 pro­test­ers were in­jured se­verely enough to be taken to hospi­tals dur­ing the overnight skir­mish at the bridge, said Dal­las Gold­tooth, an or­ga­nizer with the In­dige­nous En­vi­ron­men­tal Net­work.

“Hy­pother­mia, a num­ber of head in­juries from be­ing shot with rub­ber bul­lets, one in­di­vid­ual had a heart at­tack,” he said.

Daniel Kana­hele, 64, a na­tive Hawai­ian, said he was hit with tear gas, wa­ter spray and a rub­ber bul­let in a leg, and “it took me off my feet.” He was treated at the scene.

Al­though Gold­tooth said a wa­ter can­non was used to douse the pro­test­ers, Morton County Sher­iff Kyle Kirch­meier said only fire hoses were used. Sher­iff’s spokesman Rob Keller said a tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cle spray­ing tear gas has been mis­taken by some peo­ple as a wa­ter can­non.

Kirch­meier de­fended the use of wa­ter hoses, say­ing pro­test­ers were us­ing ag­gres­sive tac­tics them­selves.

“We’re just not go­ing to let peo­ple or pro­test­ers in large groups come in and threaten of­fi­cers. That’s not hap­pen­ing,” the sher­iff said.

Man­dan Po­lice Chief Ja­son Ziegler said au­thor­i­ties won’t rule out us­ing wa­ter again if it’s deemed nec­es­sary “to main­tain con­trol and order.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

In an im­age pro­vided by the Morton County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment, law en­force­ment and pro­test­ers clash near the site of the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line on Sun­day in Can­non Ball, N.D.

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