County sheriff's officers cleared an expanded encampment of protesters Thursday from private land near the disputed $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline construction corridor in south-central North Dakota.
Reports were that most protesters remained peaceful, though some heaved logs onto the windshields of military vehicles in the area and some tires along a highway near a bridge were set on fire.
The land is near a two-month-old encampment of protesters on the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's reservation, but the protest was on land owned by the sponsors of the nearly 1,200-mile Dakota Access pipeline project, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which had warned the protesters earlier in the week to leave or be removed by authorities.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said law enforcement began "taking steps to remove illegal roadblocks and protesters trespassing on private property" in the late morning on Thursday near Highway 1806, which runs through the area. "Protesters escalated unlawful behavior this past weekend by setting up illegal roadblocks, trespassing onto private property and establishing an encampment," Kirchmeier said.
The protesters had earlier been asked to voluntarily remove the roadblocks and encampment.
Separately on Thursday, the Morton County State's Attorney's office filed charges against two individuals allegedly involved in an attack on three journalists at the encampment on Oct. 18, while they were covering the protest and interviewing protesters at the site.
Earlier in the week, the governors of three of the four states where pipeline construction continues -- North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa -- sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers requesting they issue an easement for the pipeline project to continue under Lake Oahe in the Missouri River, ending any further delays in the project. "The Corps' mission is to facilitate energy-related permits as a national objective and prioritize those applications," said governors Terry Branstad (Iowa), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota) and Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota).
The latest conflict comes as the four-state oil pipeline construction project, which is more than half finished, has become a national lobbying effort by Native American tribes, with the Standing Rock Sioux alleging that it was not properly consulted during state and federal permitting processes (see Shale Daily, Oct. 26).
The Obama administration weighed in on the project last month, after the Sioux's legal pleas for an injunction were turned down in federal court (see Shale Daily, Sept. 13).