Protests turn violent near North Dakota pipeline site
An estimated 400 protesters mounted the Backwater Bridge and attempted to force their way past police in what the Morton County Sheriff’s Department initially described as an “ongoing riot,” the latest in a series of demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. At least 17 protesters were taken to the hospital after authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses to disperse people who had gathered there at the Backwater Bridge in subfreezing temperatures and attempted to force their way past police in what the Morton County Sheriff’s Department initially described as an “ongoing riot,”. Some were treated for hypothermia, organizers said.
The Backwater Bridge has been closed since late October, when activists clashed with police in riot gear, prompting authorities to forcibly shut down a protesters encampment nearby.
The $3.7 billion Dakota Access project has been drawing steady opposition from Native American and environmental activists since the summer.
Completion of the pipeline, set to run 1,172 miles (1,185 km) from North Dakota to Illinois, was delayed in September so federal authorities could re-examine permits required by the Army Corps of Engineers. Plans called for the pipeline to pass under Lake Oahe, a federally owned water source, and to skirt the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation by about half a mile. Most of the construction has otherwise been finished.
The Standing Rock tribe and environmental activists say the project would threaten water supplies and sacred Native American sites and ultimately contribute to climate change.
Supporters of the pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, said the project offers the fast and most direct route for bringing Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries and would be safer than transporting the oil by road or rail.