Law enforcement in North Dakota used pepper spray and tear gas against oil-pipeline protesters wading in waist-deep water to reach government land where the pipeline is to be built in spite of American Indian artifacts being discovered along the route last month.
FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials also were at the site Wednesday near the Dakota Access pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., north of the main protest encampment investigating reports of gunshots and a person being “hog-tied” and detained by an entity that called itself “camp security,” according to the Morton County (N.D.) Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s department was in a standoff with protesters until about 2 p.m. MT Wednesday at Cantapeta Creek where it meets the Cannonball River, about 30 miles southeast of Bismarck, N.D. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is considered the official owner of the land, told the Morton County Sheriff’s Department to remove any people who trespassed on land north of the main camp area.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe considers the area its ancestral lands given via a treaty with the United States in 1868 but subsequently taken away in other U.S. actions to reduce Native American tribes’ holdings.
Protesters, many affiliated with the tribe or supporters of its cause, had built a wooden bridge Wednesday morning across Cantapeta Creek, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave Morton County orders to take down the bridge.
Protesters attempted to swim or wade across the creek when officers dismantled the bridge. At least two people were arrested.
Anyone who crossed the river was told they would be arrested for criminal trespass. The sheriff’s department called the bridge “illegal” said it “violated numerous state and federal laws.”
One person was arrested for conspiracy to commit obstruction of a government function for purchasing kayaks and canoes to be used to cross the water, according to sheriff’s department officials. Another protester was arrested after throwing bottles at officers; another charged the police line, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the action resulted in an arrest.
Law enforcement used rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the protesters who came across the water, according to the statement. No one was killed, but authorities would not say whether protesters or officers suffered any injuries.
Volunteer medics treated some of the protesters for hypothermia during the confrontation.
Video from The Young Turks shows protesters saying they want to cross to the other side of the river to pray over their ancestors buried in sacred ground there. In the video, protesters can be heard saying, “Save our water.”
The confrontation came hours after North Dakota regulators criticized the pipeline company, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, for not immediately reporting the discovery of American Indian artifacts and a day after President Barack Obama raised the possibility of future reroutes to alleviate tribal concerns.
The potential for damage to American Indian sites and artifacts has been a flashpoint in a months-long protest over the pipeline, which is intended to carry crude from western North Dakota almost 1,200 miles to a shipping point in Patoka, Ill. The Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation lies near the pipeline route, have led a protest over that issue and the pipeline’s potential hazard to drinking water.
Almost 1,000 miles to the southeast, about 200 protesters rallied outside Cincinnati City Hall in solidarity with the Standing Rock Reservation protesters.
The 1,172-mile pipeline is largely complete outside of North Dakota. The federal government in September ordered a temporary halt to construction on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land around and underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas.
The corps is reviewing its permitting of the project but has given no timetable for a decision.
Contributing: The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Associated Press. Follow Danielle Ferguson on Twitter: @DaniFergs
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