Dakota Access Pipeline construction resumes after protest turns violent

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Sept. 5, 2016 at 11:37 AM
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MORTON COUNTY, N.D., Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Construction resumed Sunday afternoon on the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota after a protest turned violent the day before.

The protest was triggered after protesters had marched from their campsite to a construction site west of Highway 1806 found recently to contain Native American graves and sacred sites. One day after filing court papers, bulldozers were brought in Saturday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said.

About 500 to 800 people traveled to the construction site around 2:30 p.m. Saturday and broke down a fence to get in, the Morton County Sheriff's Department said. They stampeded the site with horses, dogs and vehicles, according to the authorities.

No one was arrested in the clash between 14 private security officers hired to oversee the project and protesters.

Police said several people were assaulted with fence posts and flag poles, including private security officers hired by Dakota Access Pipeline. One guard was transported to a Bismarck hospital with injuries but refused treatment, according to Donnell Preskey, spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's Office.

Tthe sheriff's department doesn't plan to send additional officers to the construction site.

{link:Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault said at least six protesters were maced and pepper sprayed, and several people were bitten by the security guards' dogs after protesters entered the construction zone.

The Morton County authorities said. said no tear gas or canine units were used to remove the activists.

But attack dogs and tear gas were used on protesters, witnesses said.

"They were able to stop the pipeline by giving them the run over the next ridge," George Henry, a bystander, told KCTV News. "But understand a few of the warriors received the gas."

One protester told the station, "I wasn't expecting them to Mace, it came out of nowhere. They let the dogs loose on a horse, and they maced a woman in the face, this close range, that's what started it all."

Law enforcement from Morton County, Burleigh County and Highway Patrol responded. The protestors left without further incident.

"Any suggestion that today's event was a peaceful protest, is false," said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. "This was more like a riot than a protest. Individuals crossed onto private property and accosted private security officers with wooden posts and flag poles. The aggression and violence displayed here today is unlawful and should not be repeated."

Video showed security officers threatening protesters with dogs.

The independent television and radio program Democracy Now! documented dogs appearing to bite protesters and security guards appeared to use pepper spray.

The protestors marched from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land to the private property on the west side of Highway 1806. The march blocked traffic on the highway.

On Friday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe submitted documents in court that identified areas with sacred graves and artifacts.

Construction crews removed topsoil across about 150 feet wide stretching for miles, the tribe said in a release.

"This demolition is devastating," Archambault said in a rease. "These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground."

Archambault told the Grand Forks Herald: "They wanted to destroy the proof and evidence; the company knew those sites were there. They don't normally work on Saturday and Sunday; we know because we've been watching them. They desecrated all the land where the landowner gave us permission to look," he said.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg will rule by Friday on an injunction to stop construction.

Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, S.D., said that many of his tribal members were pepper sprayed by the security officers and attacked by dogs.

"I am calling on all members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to avoid traveling to or doing business in the Mandan-Bismarck area until this crisis is resolved," Frazier said in a statement. "I fear for my people's safety."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's office in a statement Sunday: "We urge all protesters to participate only in peaceful and lawful activities. Our primary focus as a state is to maintain public safety for protesters, workers and the general public."

Native Americans are protesting a 1,100-mile, $3.8 billion four-state oil pipeline. The protest began Aug. 10 when ground was broken near the reservation. Pipeline opponents say it could disturb sacred sites and impact drinking water for 8,000 tribal members and millions further downstream.

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