- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2016

Law enforcement arrested 33 Dakota Access pipeline protesters Friday after they slashed tires, destroyed a construction site, blocked county roads and attacked an officer with a stake near Mandan, North Dakota.

The latest clash brought to roughly 500 the number of activists arrested by local law enforcement since about 2,000 began occupying nearby federal land in an effort to stop the pipeline’s construction.

Most of the protesters were arrested for interfering with a government function after they blocked North Dakota Highway 6 with vehicles. Protesters also created a barricade at the intersection of two county roads in order to stop officers from reaching Highway 6.

At the construction site for the pipeline, protesters trespassed onto private property and smashed windows, cut wires, stole fire extinguishers and spray-painted equipment, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

One man wearing goggles was pepper-sprayed and arrested after swinging a stake at an officer. Protesters also set up a roadblock on Highway 6, preventing access for local residents and an ambulance.

“Authorities gave trespassers a warning to disperse multiple times and advised protesters if they didn’t leave, protesters would be arrested and their vehicles would be towed,” said the department in a Friday press release.

An estimated 1,500 to 2,500 activists have camped out since Aug. 10 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in a protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and national environmental groups over concerns about water quality and historic sites.

While Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II has called for activists to remain peaceful, the protest has been marred by frequent violent clashes as protesters block roads, set fires and confront law enforcement.

The protest activity Friday was indicative of the schism within the protest movement. Even as some activists were engaged in the clash, including throwing rocks at security workers at the construction site, about 300 protesters held a peaceful protest to honor veterans, department spokesman Rob Keller told the North Dakota-based Say Anything blog.

Dakota Access LLC is waiting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to sign off on a permit for the final 1,100-foot stretch at Lake Oahu. The $3.7 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline crosses four states from the Bakken field in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

At a status hearing Friday held by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an attorney for the corps indicated that a decision would be announced in a few days, according to Say Anything.

In a statement Friday, Dakota Access LLC said the reasons for the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw the permit in September “are unclear and reek of political interference.”

“As a practical matter, pipeline construction in the State of North Dakota is complete except for the crossing beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahu,” said the company.

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