Society

141 Arrested, Cars Ablaze In ND Pipeline Protests

| by Sam Gravity

In total, 141 Native Americans and environmental activists were arrested on Oct. 28 after police intervened on escalating protests seeking to halt construction of a disputed oil pipeline.

Police in riot gear engaged approximately 330 protesters with pepper spray and armored vehicles the morning of Oct. 28, in order to clear a camp blocking the path of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department reports.

Protesters lashed back at law enforcement attempting to clear the private property, reportedly throwing rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails at police and setting fire to vehicles, according to Reuters.

Among the mayhem, a female protester fired three rounds from a .38 caliber revolver, "narrowly missing a sheriff's deputy," according to North Dakota State Emergency Services Spokeswoman Cecily Fong, and was taken into custody by police, NBC News reports.

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"It was a very active and tense evening as law enforcement worked through the evening to clear protesters," the department said.

Supporters of the 1,172-mile pipeline, built by Energy Transfer Partners, believe the pipeline would be the safest, fastest, and most cost-effective route to transport Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, joined by environmental activists, have protested the pipeline for several months, believing the project threatens the local water supply and sacred tribal sites. Native Americans had set up camp at the private site in protest since Oct. 24, asserting they were the land’s rightful owners under an 1851 treaty with the U.S. government.

"Protesters' escalated unlawful behavior this weekend by setting up illegal roadblocks, trespassing onto private property and establishing an encampment, has forced law enforcement to respond at this time," Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in a statement.

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"I can't stress it enough, this is a public safety issue," the sheriff said. "We cannot have protesters blocking county roads, blocking state highways, or trespassing on private property."

In all, 141 people were arrested on various charges including conspiracy to endanger by fire or explosion, engaging in a riot and maintaining a public nuisance, the sheriff's department said.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux asked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to take a stance on the pipeline on Oct. 27. She responded that evening with a diplomatic view.

"From the beginning of this campaign, Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects," Spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement.

"Now, all of the parties involved — including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes — need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest."

Sources: Reuters, NBC News / Photo credit: Alan Berner/The Seattle Times

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