- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

President Obama has made it clear that he wants no part of the explosive Dakota Access occupation, but anti-pipeline protesters may have left him no choice.

Three federal agencies — the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — stepped in Wednesday, albeit gingerly, after more reports of wrongdoing, including trespassing, gunfire at the camps and a person found hog-tied by protesters working as “camp security.”

The FBI and BIA were investigating the reports, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department of North Dakota.

Meanwhile, deputies arrested one protester Wednesday and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse activists who had erected a bridge across Cantapeta Creek to reach Cannonball Ranch, which is owned by the pipeline company.

In this case, however, the request to remove protesters came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns land along the shoreline, over concerns about violations of the Clean Water Act and Safe River and Harbors Act.

The federal assist came as a huge relief to Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has received no federal law enforcement help since the occupation began Aug. 10, even though protesters are operating out of camps on federal land.

“Eighty-five days into the protests, we look forward to other federal government agencies following the Corps’ spirit of providing support and assistance to law enforcement,” Sheriff Kirchmeier said in a statement, and who described the Corps’ sudden involvement as “uplifting.”

Oddly enough, the federal help came a day after Mr. Obama told MSNBC that he would wait a few weeks to see the protest “play out” despite months of pleas for assistance from state lawmakers. Mr. Obama leaves office in January.

The president’s comments angered local officials, a labor union spokesman and the National Sheriff’s Association’s CEO, who argued that threats, intimidation and unrest from the roughly 2,000 protesters have created a dangerous situation for residents, pipeline workers and officers.

“For months now, our members have worked under constant threat, losing wages and sleep as a result of aggressive and unsafe protest tactics. It must stop,” Cody Bryson, business agent for Laborers’ International Union Local 563, said in an op-ed. “It is time for the Federal Government to stop delaying completion of this important national infrastructure project.”

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in-state construction is nearing completion, with workers expected to finish laying pipe by the weekend.

As for Mr. Obama’s comment, “I have no idea what he means when he says ‘let it play out.’ It’s been playing out for a year,” the Republican governor told WDAY-AM’s Rob Port.

Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz slammed Mr. Obama for ducking responsibility for activists using camps on federal property as a launching pad for sieges on private construction sites, highways and bridges.

“When President Obama says he wants to let the situation ‘play out for several more weeks,’ it affords the opportunity [for the] out-of-state militant faction of this protest to keep escalating their violent activities,” said Mr. Schulz.

The unrest culminated in a face off last week in which protesters burned nine vehicles, set fires along the highway and bridges and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at deputies trying to remove a blockade from private land.

Mr. Obama expressed support for the activists in a Tuesday interview with MSNBC, saying he hoped to find a way to “accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans,” adding that “we’re going to let it play out for several more weeks.”

More than 400 protesters have been arrested during the conflict that began Aug. 10, primarily for trespassing and rioting on construction sites owned by the pipeline company. The protest is being led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe over concerns about water quality and sacred sites, but of the 415 people arrested as of Wednesday, only 9 percent are from North Dakota, according to the National Sheriff’s Association.

Standing Rock Sioux tribal Chairman David Archambault II praised Mr. Obama Wednesday for his “commitment to protect our sacred lands, our water, and the water of 17 million others.”

Dakota Access LLC bought in September several thousand acres of land, including the Cannonball Ranch property, which lies just north of the federal parcel serving as a site for protest camps.

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