Dakota pipe­line protesters lob Molo­tovs as of­fi­cers clear camp

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Ac­tivists threw rocks, burned tires, set blazes, lobbed Molo­tov cock­tails and even fired gun­shots as of­fi­cers in riot gear moved to clear protesters Thurs­day from a camp il­le­gally block­ing the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line route.

The con­fronta­tion saw 117 protesters ar­rested as they tried to stop law en­force­ment from re­mov­ing the block­ade on pri­vate land, hours after thick black smoke rose from a flam­ing bar­ri­cade along High­way 1806 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Mean­while, the North Dakota Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices re­ported that a pro­tester pulled out a .38 cal­iber gun and fired three shots at law en­force­ment, nar­rowly miss­ing a deputy, while a driver was run off the road by protesters and shot in the hand.

“Protesters have started two fires on the Back­wa­ter Bridge and are throw­ing Molo­tov Cock­tails at law en­force­ment,” said depart­ment spokes­woman Ce­cily Fong in a late Thurs­day state­ment.

Of­fi­cers used pep­per spray against protesters who hurled pro­jec­tiles, in­clud­ing rocks, and re­fused to com­ply with or­ders, ac­cord­ing to the Mor­ton County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment.

Sher­iff Kyle Kirch­meier said the depart­ment was left with lit­tle choice after ac­tivists set up tents and teepees last week­end in the path of the pipe­line project and re­fused re­peat­edly to leave the prop­erty, which is owned by the pipe­line de­vel­oper.

“Law en­force­ment has been very me­thod­i­cal in mov­ing ahead slowly as to not es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion,” said Cass County Sher­iff Paul Laney. “How­ever, the protesters are us­ing very dan­ger­ous means to slow us down. Their ag­gres­sive tac­tics in­clude us­ing horses, fire and try­ing to flank us with horses and peo­ple.”

Mean­while, the protesters, who in­sisted they were un­armed and peace­ful, de­cried what they de­scribed as the heavy-handed po­lice re­sponse, which in­cluded an ar­mored truck, sound cannon and bull­dozer.

The oc­cu­piers have ar­gued they are legally within their rights after declar­ing last week the par­cel “un­ceded ter­ri­tory,” that ac­cord­ing to an 1851 treaty be­longs to the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribe.

Ac­tor Mark Ruf­falo, who joined the Rev. Jesse Jack­son in a trip to the en­camp­ment to cheer on protesters, called on Pres­i­dent Obama and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dal­rym­ple to in­ter­vene.

“[T]he world is watch­ing! We’re call­ing on you to stop the po­lice es­ca­la­tion at #Stand­ingRock now!” Mr. Ruf­falo said on Twit­ter.

The specter of anti-oil protesters burn­ing tires drew crit­i­cism from North Dakota ra­dio talk-show host Rob Port, who said in a post, “You can’t make this stuff up” and noted that burn­ing tires comes as a vi­o­la­tion of state air-qual­ity law.

“Why is this sort of thing il­le­gal? Be­cause burn­ing tires and stuff is bad for the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Mr. Port on his Say Any­thing blog. “You’d think that would be the sort of thing a bunch of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists would be sen­si­tive to.”

The dra­matic con­fronta­tion ramped up pres­sure on the White House to weigh in on the 1,172-mile, four-state pipe­line project, which has been the source of ten­sion for 10 weeks de­spite a judge’s rul­ing against the tribe in Septem­ber that cleared the way for con­struc­tion.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has been ac­cused of hold­ing the project hostage after halt­ing work last month on a 1,000-foot stretch of Army Corps of En­gi­neers land, even though the pipe­line had al­ready won fed­eral and state ap­proval.

The con­flict spilled into the pres­i­den­tial race Thurs­day as young tribal mem­bers flooded the cam­paign head­quar­ters of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton, de­mand­ing that she break her si­lence on the pipe­line.

“By re­fus­ing to stand against DAPL, Hil­lary is putting our en­vi­ron­ment, wildlife, cul­ture and land at risk,” said 16-year-old Wil­liam Brownot­ter in a Green­peace state­ment.

The tribe and na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal groups have raised con­cerns about wa­ter qual­ity and sa­cred tribal burial and cul­tural sites along the pipe­line route, which comes within about a half-mile of the reser­va­tion.

The protesters were told re­peat­edly Thurs­day that they were “free to go” and would not be ar­rested if they left the block­ade and re­turned to a nearby camp, the sher­iff re­ported.

Sev­eral protesters at­tached them­selves to ve­hi­cles at the road­block us­ing de­vices known as “sleep­ing dragons.”

Sher­iff Kirch­meier in­sisted Thurs­day that he has no in­ter­est in pipe­line pol­i­tics but must up­hold the law and pro­tect pub­lic safety. More than 250 ac­tivists had been ar­rested be­fore Thurs­day, pri­mar­ily on tres­pass­ing and ri­ot­ing charges.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tires burn as sol­diers and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers stand ready to force Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line protesters off pri­vate land where they had camped to block con­struc­tion.

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