By Glynn Wilson –
CANNON BALL, N.D. – According to the Morton County sheriff’s department, 83 people were arrested on Saturday while protesting a controversial North Dakota oil pipeline and pepper spray was used in what the local cops called a “riot.”
Saturday’s arrests occurred in a confrontation with police after around 300 demonstrators trespassed on private property along the Dakota Access Pipeline project’s right of way, according to the sheriff’s office account, first reported by NBC News.
According to knowledgeable sources, local police officials are obviously under pressure from the corporation building the pipeline to end the protest once and for all so work can continue. But so far the Obama administration has encouraged the Native Americans to stand up for their rights. Adminstration agencies and the courts could either stop the pipeline, like they ultimately did with the Keystone XL pipeline last year, or clear the way for its construction at any time.
Protests have been going on for more than two months against the pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says would destroy some of its sacred sites.
The confrontation between police and protesters began at 5:20 a.m. Saturday and lasted five hours, according to the sheriff’s office spokesman Rob Keller.
Protesters have camped for weeks about five miles from the site, close to where the Missouri and Cannonball rivers meet.
The sheriff department’s statement said law enforcement officers decided to use pepper spray when protesters tried to breach the line they had created between the demonstration and construction equipment. It added that a protester disarmed an officer and used his own pepper spray against him, blinding him for up to five minutes.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said Saturday’s confrontation shows “that this protest is not peaceful or lawful.”
A section of a state highway had to be shut down because of the protests, but has since reopened.
“It was obvious to our officers who responded that the protesters engaged in escalated unlawful tactics and behavior during this event,” Kirchmeier said in a statement. “This protest was intentionally coordinated and planned by agitators with the specific intent to engage in illegal activities.”
The sheriff’s office said 83 people were arrested. Four of those had attempted to attach themselves to a sports utility vehicle parked on private property close to the construction equipment. Two fastened themselves to the exterior of the car, one bound himself to the steering wheel, and another fed his arm through a hole in the door and had his hand stuck inside a bucket of hardened concrete.
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners were granted approval for the 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline earlier this year. It runs from North Dakota to Illinois and is estimated to cost nearly $3.8 billion and could move up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day once completed.
Protesters, many of whom are members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, are worried about the potential environmental impact to the Missouri River and the possible desecration of nearby sacred sites. Plans are to cross under the riverbed less than a mile from the tribe’s reservation.
Find out more details from our original coverage after visiting the camp in person: Standing Rock Sioux Prepare for More Protests to Halt Dakota Access Pipeline.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.