Tribal leaders spent Friday trying to help defuse escalating tensions between opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline and authorities.
CANNON BALL, N.D. — After an all-night showdown with police, protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline were by midday Friday beginning to dismantle their highway barricade of burned trucks and plywood scraps.
Facing them was a phalanx of police in armored personnel carriers, behind a hastily erected wall of concrete Jersey barriers.
A tribal elder who intervened in the escalating conflict defused tension, counseling demonstrators to follow police demands to move back from the bridge on the highway where they built the barricade and to remove the barrier. More elders continued to arrive to assist in calming the situation.
Demonstrators, who call themselves Water Protectors, set multiple fires on the bridge overnight. They still had not dispersed as of late Friday afternoon, but tribal members were working with law enforcement in an attempt to disperse them.
- Background stories: Here's a primer on the pipeline project, including the key players on all sides, a brief history of broken treaty promises and a closer look at the courtroom battle. And here's what we're reading related to the controversy.
- March 28: What the completed Dakota Access pipeline means for key players.
- Feb. 23: Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp closed; 46 holdouts arrested.
- Feb. 22: Preparing to leave, Standing Rock protesters ceremonially burn camp.
- Feb. 13: Judge rejects tribes’ bid to halt Dakota Access Pipeline; feds plan to shut down protest camp.
- Feb. 1: Hundreds rally as the Seattle City Council considers divesting from Wells Fargo because of its role as a Dakota Access Pipeline lender.
- Jan. 24, 2017: Donald Trump signs executive orders advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it will push back.
- Dec. 4, 2016: Tribes celebrate as Corps rejects Dakota Access pipeline easement
- Nov. 21: Washington tribes urge that Obama stop, reroute Dakota Access Pipeline
- Nov. 12: Hundreds rally in Tacoma against Dakota Access Pipeline
- Live updates from from Seattle Times journalists on the scene Oct. 26, 27 and 28.
- Oct. 25: Tribes in Washington state call on President Obama to improve federal consultations over infrastructure projects
- Oct. 24: Citing treaty claim, protesters occupy land a rancher recently sold to pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners.
- See photos from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Police are trying to move all demonstrators to a camp farther south on the highway, where opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been gathering since last spring. That camp is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, where police told protesters they were free to return to and remain.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release Friday afternoon thanking tribal members of the Standing Rock Sioux for helping to calm the situation, as well as elders from other tribes encamped at the Sacred Stone Camp.
Tribal members were also allowed Friday to return to a camp they were pushed out of Thursday. It’s on private land belonging to the developers of the pipeline, in the path of construction. Demonstrators were allowed under police escort to return to the former camp to retrieve their teepees and other property. In all, they were there less than a week, after taking the land back under eminent domain under the treaty of 1851.
Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier in a news conference Friday afternoon said another arrest of demonstrators had been made, bringing the total over the two days to 142 people. In all, a total of 411 demonstrators have been arrested since Aug. 10 in connection with protests against the pipeline.
Police used pepper spray, rifles that shot bean bags and sponges, concussive grenades (a device that generates an ear-piercing noise) and Tasers. The sheriff reported the latter was used in one instance when a protester threw pepper in an officer’s face Thursday.
Demonstrators burned at least nine vehicles and construction equipment, the sheriff reported. No serious injuries were reported.
The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault II, has called for intervention by the Department of Justice to keep the peace.
“By deploying law enforcement to support the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, the State of North Dakota is collaborating with Energy Transfer Partners in escalating tensions,” he said in a prepared statement of the pipeline developer, based in Dallas, Texas.
“We need our state and federal government to bring justice and peace to our lands, not the force of armored vehicles.”
Archambault also called on demonstrators to be peaceful as they stay tried to stop the pipeline, which the tribe and thousands of opponents who have joined them say threatens clean water, because of the developer’s proposed pipeline crossing under the Missouri River.
“We won’t step down from this fight,” Archambault said.