Authorities back decision to douse pipeline protesters


Associated Press

CANNON BALL, N.D.

Authorities on Monday defended their decision to douse protesters with water during a skirmish in subfreezing weather near the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and organizers said at least 17 protesters were taken to the hospital – including some who were treated for hypothermia.

The clash occurred late Sunday and early Monday as protesters trying to push past a long-blocked bridge on a state highway were turned back by authorities using tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses. One officer was injured when struck in the head with a rock. One protester was arrested.

Protesters and officers massed at the bridge again late Monday morning, but protesters dispersed a few hours later at the request of tribal elders after police warned the crowd that they’d identified firearms and that anyone with a weapon should leave.

The Standing Rock Sioux and others oppose the 1,200-mile, four-state pipeline being built to carry oil from western North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois because they say it threatens drinking water on their nearby reservation and cultural sites. Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners has said no sites have been disturbed and that the $3.8 billion pipeline will be safe.

The pipeline is largely complete except for the section under a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota, and ETP Chief Executive Kelcy Warren said Friday the company is unwilling to reroute it.

At least 17 protesters were injured severely enough to be taken to hospitals during the overnight skirmish at the bridge, said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Although Goldtooth said a water cannon was used to douse the protesters, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said only fire hoses were used. Sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller said a tactical vehicle spraying tear gas has been mistaken by some people as a water cannon.

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