By Chris Michaud
Nov 20 Hundreds of protesters opposed to a North
Dakota oil pipeline project they say threatens water resources
and sacred tribal lands clashed with police who fired tear gas
at the scene of a similar confrontation last month, officials
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.
A statement from the agency said one arrest had been made by
8:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Monday), about 2 1/2 hours after
the incident began 45 miles (30 miles) south of Bismark, the
North Dakota capital. About 100 to 200 protesters remained after
The Backwater Bridge has been closed since late October,
when activists clashed with police in riot gear and set two
trucks on fire, prompting authorities to forcibly shut down a
protesters encampment nearby.
The Morton County Sheriff's Department said officers on the
scene of the latest confrontation were "describing protesters'
actions as very aggressive."
Demonstrators tried to start about a dozen fires as they
attempted to outflank and "attack" law enforcement barricades,
the sheriff's statement said.
Police said they responded by firing volleys of tear gas at
protesters in a bid to prevent them from crossing the bridge.
Activists at the scene reported on Twitter that police were
also spraying protesters with water in sub-freezing temperatures
and firing rubber bullets, injuring some in the crowd.
Police did not confirm those reports, but later said
protesters had hurled rocks, striking one officer, and fired
burning logs from slingshots.
The clashes began after protesters removed a truck that had
been on the bridge since Oct. 27, police said. The North Dakota
Department of Transportation closed the Backwater Bridge due to
damage from that incident.
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.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud in New York; Editing by Steve
Gorman and Susan Fenton)